Date:         Wed, 4 Jul 2001 03:22:48 +0000
Sender:       The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace
From:         Bob Rankin 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 03 Jul 01 - Smart Tags: Dumb Idea?
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              TOURBUS Volume 6, Number 92 -- 03 July 2001
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           TODAY'S TOURBUS TOPIC: Smart Tags - Dumb Idea?
Perhaps you've heard about Smart Tags, a new technology from Microsoft
that recently raised the collective eyebrows of privacy pundits and
consumer advocates.  Is Smart Tags a intrusive concept with Orwellian
overtones, or a nifty usability feature?  Read on to learn more, and
find out what's new in the world of search engines.
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Smart Tags is a feature that Microsoft included in Internet Explorer
Version 6, the Web browser that will come with Windows XP, an upgrade
to the Windows operating system slated to ship late this year.
Smart Tags would enable Microsoft to modify a web page being viewed
with Explorer 6 by adding hyperlinks to any word on the page.  Of
course Microsoft can put all the links they want on their OWN pages,
but Smart Tags would allow them to change OTHER peoples' pages by
adding new links that would direct visitors away from that site
and into sites owned by the software behemoth.
For example, let's say you have a website about world travel.  Would
you be happy if your pages suddenly sprouted "helpful" hyperlinks
wherever the words "airline" and "hotel" appeared, and those links
pointed your visitors to Expedia, a travel service owned by Microsoft?
This technology would also enable Microsoft to offer paid links from
any site to a competitor's site without the owners' permission.
  > "Hello, this is Microsoft."
  > "Hi - Joe Isuzu here.  We'd like to buy a link to our site
  > from the word 'SUV' on the Ford website.  Can do?
  > MS: "Sorry, but some guy from Chevy already bought that link
  > for $3 million plus ten cents per click.
  > JOE: "Hmmm.  How much for a link from all occurrences of the
  > word 'Blazer' on Chevy's site to the Barney page on PBS.ORG?
Set aside any concerns about a third party modifying your content
without permission.  Many are asking if it's ethical for Microsoft
to leverage it's dominance of the desktop and Internet software
market in this manner.  Clearly Gates and Company see dollar signs
in Smart Tags, but the marketplace is crying "Dumb Idea!"
Last week a Microsoft spokesman announced that due to "external
feedback" (a euphemism for angry rock-throwing hordes), Smart Tags
will not be included in the final version of Windows XP to be
released in October.  That's good news, but he also indicated that
Smart Tags might show up in future versions of Windows.
And Smart Tags remains in Office XP, the new version of Microsoft's
office suite released in May.  So if someday you're typing away in
a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet, and certain words start
turning blue, be careful where you click -- Microsoft may be trying
to sell you something.  Follow the link below to read a CNET story
with more information on Microsoft's Smart Tags.  
More and more search engines are offering webmasters the option to
pay for guaranteed or expedited listings in their databases.  This
week, AltaVista became the latest to offer a "paid inclusion"
service.  For a mere $39, you can get rapid entry into AltaVista's
database, and weekly visits from the AltaVista spider, to ensure
your listings match your site's content.  
Does this mean that you MUST pay to get your site listed
with the search engines?  How does "paid inclusion" differ from
"paid placement"?  And do these programs affect the quality of the
search results?  Danny Sullivan's Search Engine Report has all the
That's all for now, I'll see you next time!  --Bob Rankin
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TOURBUS - 03 JUL 01 - Smart Tags: Dumb Idea, viruses, hoaxes, urban legends, search engines, cookies, cool sites
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