I previously mentioned Google’s announcement about the rel=nofollow attribute. There has been much enthusiasm about this, and much backlash against it, since then. It’s certainly not a miracle cure for anything, but I don’t see how it could hurt.
Yes, spammers will keep spamming. Eventually, three or four years from now, they’ll notice that their spam links are having less effect, but they’ll still do it—the fact remains that it’s little to no work for the spammer, so if even one person clicks on a link it’s still worthwhile. Just like email spam.
Many people have complained that this is only a good thing for Google—it just helps them sort out different types of links. Of course that’s true, but an advantage for Google is an advantage for all of us. If Google has more information about links, they can improve their search and ranking algorithms. We’ll see less spam in search results, even if we see just as much on our weblogs.
I’m not going to support the attribute on any of my sites. I monitor them daily and quickly remove any spam that gets through, so spammers already get no benefit here, and I want legitimate comments to get the benefit of their links. The biggest benefit for the web at large will be that there will no longer be thousands of abandoned weblogs out there that can be freely spammed with links that won’t be removed for years.
One more thing: as Scoble said, it’s amazing that Google was able to get their biggest competitors, and several other companies, to agree on this and implement it within a few days. Why can’t we see this kind of cooperation in the world of Instant Messaging?