[FoRK] Google's toolbar: threat or menace?

Ken Meltsner meltsner at gmail.com
Wed Feb 23 15:22:21 PST 2005

I'm trying to figure out whether Google's new toolbar feature of
adding anchors to product names, etc. in the web pages you're looking
at is a desirable feature.  It is more than reminiscent of Microsoft's
abortive attempt to provide the world with "Smart Tags", but computer
companies have been trying to figure out how to insert themselves into
our documents for a long time -- Apple's Data Detectors come to mind,
as does Inxight's entity detection tools.  Annotating text
automatically is considered valuable by some, and a threat to
individual freedom by others, depending on the company, application,
context, etc.

So, I'm trying to figure this out.  When are added anchors/links
desirable?  When is it a good idea to collect entity (e.g name,
company, product, location) references to support smarter indexing,
and when is it an intolerable violation of textual integrity?

And in case you want to roll your own, I just came across a regex
engine that supports the assembly of simpler regular expressions into
one hulking automaton capable of tagging more than a megabyte of text
per second:


Since it was designed for tagging/annotating/anchoring text streams
for various biological applications, it's likely to be benign (?), but
the same technology is likely the core of Google's toolbar; I'm pretty
sure that Inxight's entity detection software uses something similar
as well.

Or is this just another deep-linking debacle, wherein techies find out
that other folks don't rate features based on their coolness, but on
hard-edged issues such as loss of ad revenue and trademark protection?

Ken Meltsner
Link Architect (cf. Mary Gentle's White Rose series)

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