rel=“nofollow” : Massive weblog anti-spam initiative

Wow. Straight from Jay Allen:

Six Apart has announced in co-operation with Google, Yahoo, MSN Search and other blog vendors a massive joint anti-spam initiative based on the HTML link type rel="nofollow".

The initiative is based upon the idea of taking away the value of user-submitted links in determining search rankings. By placing rel="nofollow" into the hyperlink tags of user-submitted feedback, search engines will ignore those links for the purposes of ranking (e.g. PageRank) and will not follow them when spidering a site.

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It is important to note that while the links will no longer count for PageRank (and other search engines’ algorithms), the content of user-submitted data will still be indexed along with the rest of the contents of the page. Forget all of those silly ideas of hiding your comments from the GoogleBot. Heck, the comments in most blogs are more interesting that the posts themselves. Why would you want to do that to the web?

Now, the astute will point out that because links in comments/TrackBacks are ignored by the search bots, the PageRank of bloggers all around the blooog-o-sphere will suffer because hundreds of thousands of comments linking back to their own sites will no longer count in the rankings. And that is most likely true. But that inflated PageRank, which was a problem created by the search engines themselves, is the rotting flesh that the maggots sought out in the first place. If you ask me, I say fair trade.

In the end, of course, this isn’t the end of weblog spam. But because it completely takes away the incentive for the type of spamming we’re seeing today in the weblog world, you will probably see steady decline as many spammers find greener pastures elsewhere. That decline combined with better tools should help to make this a non-issue in the future. Every little step counts, some count more than others, and history will be the judge of all.

Very cool. Also very similar to a technique I was using a couple years back, though that was geared to blocking off areas of the site to ignore rather than affecting individual links. Either way, though, it’s a big step forward. I’m especially heartened to see the list of competing companies and weblogging systems that are participating in this.