Since its enthusiastic adoption a year and a half ago, by Google, Six Apart, Wordpress, and of course the eminent Dave Winer, I think we can all agree that nofollow has done Ö nothing. Comment spam? Thicker than ever. Itís had absolutely no effect on the volume of spam. Thatís probably because comment spammers donít give a crap, because the marginal cost of spamming is so low.
But it's worse than that, he claims.
Worse, nofollow has another, more pernicious effect, which is that it reduces the value of legitimate comments. Hereís how:
Why should I bother entering a comment on your blog, after all? Well, I might comment because youíre my friend. But I might also want some tiny little reward for participating in a discussion, contributing to the content on your site, and generally enhancing the value of the conversational Web. That reward? PageRank, baby. But if your blog uses the nofollow tag, youíve just eliminated that tiny little bit of reciprocity. Thanks, but no thanks. Iíd rather just comment on my own blog. And maybe, if youíre lucky, Iíll link back to you.
I've seen that first hand. The "psychology of linking" did change in a fairly obvious way after nofollow started. Unfortunately, that was a downside that none of us saw coming back when we announced our support. I'm not sure any of us expected people to ration their links as if they were somehow in limited supply. But it happened anyway.
Introducing even a fairly subtle and indirect "economic" model into a system always changes behavior. I know that I forget (or at least underestimate) that more often than I should.
Look. Linking is part of what makes the web work. If you're actually concerned about every link you make being counted in some global database of site endorsements, you're probably over-thinking just a bit. Life's too short for that, ya know? Link and be linked to. Let the search engines sort it out.
Posted by jzawodn at May 30, 2006 06:59 AM