part of me is wondering if this isn’t a very funny april fool’s story.
i was just running through my rss feeds when i ran across some “controversy” that is emerging concerning wordpress. it sounds like matt, in an effort to raise money for what is arguably one of the coolest open source software projects going, struck a deal with some s.e.o. company named hot nacho. (and i think we can all agree that any scenario involving ethical ambiguity should have a company or person named “hot nacho” as a principle player).
matt got caught “gaming” google, to make some money for wordpress. big fucking deal. i read all these people screaming about how “illegal” and “unethical” it is, and quoting from google’s webmaster guidelines as if it were legal code. the “unethical” part of SEO is that it erodes the search engine business by diluting “real” results. google, at the bell today, was worth $49.35B. guess what? that’s no longer a couple of dorky geniuses sitting in a stanford dorm room dreaming up ways to make the world a better place. they are very very big business now, and should be able to take care of themselves. well, more than that, they owe it to their shareholders to address the fact that they have fostered a massive cottage industry (and i would venture to guess it has moved out of the cottage and into the big house) that both drives their business and threatens it. they have a bit of a faustian bargain going on, and they need to deal with it.
so wordpress made some money by exploiting a flaw in a gargantuan corporate enterprise’s business model. i am finding it a bit hard to be outraged here. sure, it might in the long run fuck up my search results from google or yahoo or msn. that’s already happening, and the effect of this case is but a drop in the bucket. when the results get too polluted, some other geniuses will come up with a better algorithm, and i’ll start using their service.
some guy named hot nacho paid wordpress to advertise on the site. an invisible ad directed at search engine robots, that didn’t affect any member of the wordpress community directly. the only injury is to expose google and yahoo et. al.’s bottom lines, eventually, maybe. to make the argument that to allow the ads (and in the end that’s really what link farms boil down to) to be placed is to perpetuate all the comment and link spam out there is pure bullshit. it’s not fraud. maybe questionable from a “cool things that all the kids are doing” standpoint. just because google or yahoo says that you shouldn’t build your websites in certain ways doesn’t mean that they have gotten laws passed governing what you can do with your pages (yet). (unless, of course, you have entered into an advertising contract with them).
if i were looking at my $180.51 a share , i would probably be a little more outraged. but i wouldn’t be pissed at matt. i’d say it’s time to put the cork back in the post-IPO champagne and devote some thought towards training some better pigeons.