A number of people have been asking me about the Google Chrome "paid links" controversy that seems to have erupted. A bit of thought would have revealed what was likely going on -- without all the drama -- but let's review.
Yesterday, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land posted a rather breathless and extensive "expose" titled Google’s Jaw-Dropping Sponsored Post Campaign For Chrome suggesting that Google was purposely violating its own prohibitions and guidelines regarding paid links (sponsored posts).
I immediately suspected that some important piece of information was missing. It simply didn't make sense for Google to be doing this purposely, not only because it would indeed seem to violate their guidelines, but also because it was so utterly obvious and was certain to be instantly noticed!
What would be the upside of such an action that would so quickly draw criticisms and scrutiny? There would be no upside, it would be utterly stupid. And Google isn't perfect, but they're also not stupid. It seemed logical to assume that some third-party confusion was involved.
Of course this hit during the holiday weekend when people were difficult to reach, but today the conspiracy theories blew apart when an outside agency noted that Google didn't authorize such activities and that outside bloggers had created those links inappropriately.
Despite the fact that those links were not Google's fault, Google has now announced that since technically the Google Chrome home page was in essence pulled into violation by those outside links, Google will (to enforce the letter of the rules the same way they would do with other sites) reduce that page's search PageRank for 60 days.
So ends another ersatz Internet drama. As Spock might have said, a bit of logic in the initial analysis -- it just didn't make sense for Google to be purposely violating its own rules as accused -- could have saved a whole bunch of typing.
But then, you know how those emotional humans behave!