When Google Goes BadJune 21, 2005
When Google added the AutoLink feature to the Google Toolbar, the move provoked a great deal of debate. I generally agreed with Jason Kottke's perspective on the controversy, namely that there are valid reasons to oppose the move, but much of the reaction missed how common this actually is on the web. Even our beloved pop-up blockers modify the site designer's original intent.
However, it's always interesting to see an intellectual debate through the prism of a real life example. Though unrelated to AutoLink, GMail also adds links to email messages, even if the links weren't provided by the sender. We had a funny encounter with this recently while sending out a newsletter to CreativePastors.com users. The email continued a sentence that referred to a new area of the site, but we accidentally left a space between Creative and Pastors.com. The phrase was not a link, but simply part of a title.
I think you see where this is going.
Sure enough, when we received the newsletter in one of our GMail test accounts, GMail was kind enough to turn that phrase into a link to Pastors.com! Though a fantastic site, the home of Rick Warren's messages and resources, we don't make a habit of linking to other ministry resource sites in our newsletters.
As I hinted above, one of our developers caught this small mistake before the newsletter was sent and no harm was done. But it is indeed a strange and eye-opening experience when your content is changed, even improved, by a helpful company when you'd rather they just leave it alone.