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Spica's World:

Why LinkNOt?



Until I undertook to announce a web site that I had made for a friend, I had never realized the extent to which major search engines in general, and Google in particular, can influence what people post on their web sites. Of course, while surfing the web I had often seen pages similar to this one. However, I had never wondered why people would post such horrors on their web site. Instead, I would just hit the back button of my browser as fast as I could when I encountered pages of that sort.


Well, why would anybody make such horrible things? I believe that it is Google's fault. Let me explain why and how. 


If you want to make a great search engine, you need a way to evaluate not only which pages are most relevant to the searched terms, but also which ones, among all of these, are most important and thus should be listed first.  With this goal in mind, two Ph.D. students at Stanford University, Larry Page and  Sergey Brin, invented a system for ranking web pages based on their perceived popularity.  The idea was simple: if a page is important, many sites will spontaneously link to it. Thus, the more "inbound links" a page has, the higher it should come up in the search engine results.


Mathematically, PageRank (PR) calculations can be somewhat complex, but the principle is simple: each page on the web that links to another page is in essence voting for that page.  Thus, the more links pointed towards a web page, the better and more important that page must be, and the higher it will come up in Google's results. For example, itself has a PR of 10, while an obscure inside page on a small web site may have a PR of 1 or even 0.  Note that the difference is actually much greater than 10 fold since the scale used for calculating PR is logarithmic. 


PageRank was a good idea, and the basis of Google's immense success. Initially, ranking web pages based on PR did  provide great results to the users. Unfortunately, Google eventually decided to let the surfers (and the webmasters) see the PR value calculated for each web page.  If you install the Google toolbar on your browser with the advance features turned on, the PR of the sites that you visit will be graphically displayed as a little green bar.


Note: If you want to learn more about Google's PageRank system, there are many web pages that discuss the topic in detail.  Just use Google to find them...


With PR knowledge widely available, webmasters and search engine optimizers can now readily manipulate this ranking method in their favor by artificially increasing the number of sites linking to theirs. "Link farms" and "link exchange programs" were created for this sole purpose. Why else would merchants provide (reciprocal) links that could lead their visitors to their competitors? Even most "web awards" programs have the same purpose: links, links, links, and more links! As a result, there are now millions of link pages similar to the one I created as an example. These links are not only useless to the users, but these pages filled with advertising banners are just as annoying as billboards along the freeway.



Spontaneous links are useful to visitors and provide for enjoyable web surfing journeys


Links established for the sole purpose of increasing PR are useless to the users




Schematic representation of the linking structure of web sites as it was and should be (A), versus what it often is now (B) due to greedy webmasters competing for high search engine rankings through high PageRank.


Google, please rethink your algorithm! Remove the PR depiction from your toolbar and devaluate the importance of reciprocal links! Let webmasters once again link to other valuable web sites solely for the enjoyment of their visitors rather than for greed!


Happy Surfer Well, there is not much anyone can do to influence a company as powerful as Google has now become.  It's like getting the leaders of your country to think about ecology.  All you can do is begin in your own backyard.  Here is what I suggest: if you have a web site of your own, turn down reciprocal link offers. I am not saying that sites should stop  posting links to other sites. Links are the important framework on which the web is built. However, most links should be one way links. Offer your visitors useful links to the best web sites you know of. Hopefully, others will do the same, making web surfing more enjoyable and productive for all of us.



NO LINK EXCHANGE  Please feel free to copy this banner, or any of these others (or make a similar one yourself). Post the banner on your link page. When more and more people start doing this too, we will once again be able to enjoy surfing the web just by following links that are what they should be: votes for what the site's owner considers to be truly valuable resources.  HAPPY SURFING!

P.C. Spica    




"Why I don't participate in link exchanges", by James S. Huggins.  As he wrote, "It is about integrity".




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