Much Ado About nofollow

Watching the various debate about Google’s nofollow initiative has been enlightening. Ostensibly, it was supposed to be a way to fight comment spam on weblogs, but predictably it took no time at all for people to figure out how to game the system. Also predictably, anti-nofollow support launched equally quickly.

I won’t use it. At all. Why? Mostly because it’s such a non-issue (it won’t do a thing to comment spam), but a large part of the reasoning is that I won’t be held hostage to what I can write and link to by any one search engine or technology. Nor am I going to let the ranking alorithm of one search engine make me do its work for it, especially if PageRank is broken like some people believe.

It’s a misnamed attribute, actually. Google says links with it “won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results,” but the “nofollow” label makes it appear that Google won’t actually follow the link itself. Not so. Google will follow the link, it just will not confer ranking.

More bothersome is the fact that other search engines (Yahoo and MSN, notably) have signed on to this. Why bothersome? Well, because Google’s PageRank algorithm is supposed to be a Trade Secret, and theoretically other search engines’ technologies are Trade Secrets also, so who knows how the others will actually implement processing of this attribute? Will they choose to actually not follow such links, allowing sites to potentially drop out of their indices? There’s no guarantees. But if they’re all similar to PageRank, and PageRank is broken, then they may all be broken and this won’t fix things.

Oh well. My various megalomaniacal rantings won’t change things in the world at large, so I’ll stick to what I can do on my own site. :)