Sean’s Obsessions

Sean Walberg’s blog

What’s the Big Deal With AutoLink?

I still don’t see why AutoLink is evil. I have yet to see an argument against it that isn’t in part related to people’s ignorance on how it works.

Geek News is the latest site to flip their lid. Parts of his comments below, because I think they point to why people don’t get it.

(you may also want to read StopScum, where I originally began my thoughts on the issue.

1st, I want a way to prevent your Autolink feature from creating your advertising links on my website.

AutoLink allows the user to get more information regarding items on a page. For instance, if an address is shown on a page, the user can click on the AutoLink button and it becomes a link to Google Maps, MapQuest, or Yahoo! maps, whichever the user chooses. A FedEx code gets changed to a link to FedEx’s tracking page. An ISBN gets changed to an Amazon link.

So, how do you prevent these links from happening?

First, provide the information the user is looking for in the first place. If the user is looking for a description of the book, they won’t use autolink if the information there already. Provide a link to a map of your building if you provide an address. If the user uses AutoLink to find this information then you have failed the user and don’t deserve the traffic.

Secondly, if you don’t want to let users use the AutoLink feature to get the information you are obviously failing to provide, make a link yourself. I’ve tested books and addresses – AutoLink will not override a link that’s already specified in the HTML.

2nd, if you are not going to give us a way to block Autolink I want you to pay me every time you cause traffic to leave my website by a reader clicking on one of your links not mine. Along with that I want independent auditing of those click aways.

Again, the user has made a choice. You failed to provide the information. The user clicked the autolink button and left.

3rd, I suspect that you may be violating my copyright and creative commons license. That will be up to a copyright lawyer to determine.

Do you make the same threats to people who run ad blockers? Blind people who have your page read to them through a text to speech converter? Users who override stylesheets? It’s all the same, since they all change the way the page is displayed.

As far as I’m concerned, the writer owns the content of the site, not the layout. HTML is simply markup. If you want absolute control of the web site then publish in PDF or print. If I, as a reader, choose to do things after the fact, then you have no cause to complain. Especially since in this case the page is only changed after the user clicks a button with the express purpose of getting more information.


I’m trying something new here. Talk to me on Twitter with the button above, please.