Forgive the lame entry title because today Google has me swooning like a fourteen year old girl. One of the biggest inconveniences of maintaining a weblog (aside from having to keep it updated!) is deleting comment spam. These are the links to Cialis, cheap loans, and pornography that spambots automatically add by the thousands to comment sections. I use a frequently updated blacklist to keep the problem in check, but even with that i nplace it’s not uncommon for me to wake up to a dozen new comments I have to delete.
Google to the rescue. The smartest search company has realized that the best way to beat the spammers may not be to fight them in a software arms race. Rather, they can change the economics of the system to make comment spamming worthless to the spammer. The main reason comment spam is profitable is that the links embedded within it are read by search engines and counted toward those sites’ rankings. If search engines could ignore those links, that incentive would be removed.
The solution is the “no follow” attribute tag. From now on when Google sees a link with the tag rel=”no follow” in it, the link will be ignored. Yahoo! and MSN have signed on as well. That takes care of three of the biggest search engines.
Bloggers have to do our part as well by ensuring that links added to our comment sections include the tag. Unless a significant number of bloggers do this, the economics won’t change and comment spam will continue unabated.
Fortunately, this should be pretty easy with the support of the blogging companies. SixApart is implementing it automatically for TypePad and LiveJournal users; MovableType users will have to install a plugin. Lots of other companies are cooperating as well, so bloggers should keep an eye out for the appropriate updates and plug-ins.
This is a smart, creative idea from Google that could make the lives of bloggers much easier, stemming tide of spam for at least the short-term. If you’re a blogger running your own software, don’t be a free rider. Use the new tag in your comment sections as soon as you can.