Could the most popular search engine Google, which claims it can make money without doing evil, be engaged in spamming? Recent activity on this blog would suggest so â€” and they certainly have both motive and opportunity.
This blog gets attacked by comment spam, just like everyone else. Automated software agents (“spambots”) attempt to post comments which link back to the spammer’s website. The more links they generate, the higher their website will rate in search engine results. Just like Ed did the other day, only faster.
Spambots promote the usual stuff â€” sex, drugs, cheap money and get-rich-quick scams. A bit like a weekend on the Gold Coast. But over the last week, roughly 25% have linked back to Google — some even go as far including the text “Google is the best search engine”!
Could these spambots really be controlled by Google? Well, as I say, they have both motive and opportunity…
Microsoft recently released Internet Explorer 7, the new version of their web browser for Windows. They’ve flagged it as a “critical update”, so every properly-configured Windows PC will download it automatically. The user has to confirm this action, but my experience is that the vast majority of users will always click a button labelled “OK” — usually without reading what it does.
One new feature of IE7 is a search box. Now Firefox has had this feature for ages. Both browsers allow you to choose which search engine you use. But while Firefox is initially set to use Google, IE uses (surprise surprise!) Microsoft’s Windows Live Search — unless you take specific action to set it to something else.
So right now millions of Internet users could be switching to Windows Live Search without knowing it. Naturally Google would want to stop this — especially given that Google’s market share has been declining over recent months.
Google could even do it themselves and be difficult to trace. Google’s own software runs on many people’s computers, including Google Toolbar and Google Desktop Search. Both update themselves automatically — so either of them could download code for a spambot, fire off a few comments and then erase the evidence without anyone knowing.
But is it really Google?
Have you got a better explanation?