Matt Cutts says it again: do not follow (nofollow)

Matt Cutts favourite html attribute rel=”nofollow” is once again major news. The object of the latest suggestions is that infographics and widgets on pages should have rel=”nofollow” on links. The reasoning behind this is that page owners might not be aware that they share their Pagerank to the linked page.

According to Google “no follow” should be used on links to untrusted content, on paid links and lastly as a crawl prioritization. Matt Cutts clarified that press releases should count as paid links and therefore should also be marked as “no follow”.

The origin of this mess is Googles main page algorithm, the original “backrub” PageRank. Every link is counted as a “vote” on the linked site by the original site. Google has since started using the “no follow” as an indication of when links are not votes.

Why could this not have been the other way around? Why not leave all links as-is and instead mark which links actually should count as votes? There are many values that a rel-attibute can have besides “nofollow”, however non that could reflect a “vote”.

Adding a new attribute value just for SEO might sound bad. However, the “nofollow” value was actually added by Google for the very same reason! If they instead would have gone with adding values like “citation”, “recommended” or simply “vote” things would have been a lot easier. Soon the reverse is in effect, every insignificant link on the web should have “nofollow” whereas the “valuable” links should remain as is.

As a side note, “no follow” also adds another benefit and that is speed. A “no follow” link will not be followed by a search engine and therefore improves the crawling speed. I do not see it as a useless addition to the rel-attribute, however as an SEO tool it’s working backwards in my opinion.

Rest i Peace Hotmail

hotmaillogoOne of the oldest most recognized web services is no more, Hotmail has been turned off. What Microsoft describes as a successful transfer of to marks the end for the former Internet giant.

Hotmail was cool back in 1996 for many reasons. The brand name was smart, HoTMaiL contained all the letters of the HTML acronym. The service marked the beginning cloud services. As a bonus it was fun to see friends who confused the word “mail” with “male” when typing the address of the service.

Microsoft bought Hotmail in 1997 for estimated $400 million.. and it has been downhill from there. I remember the outages and confusion when Microsoft first tried to migrate the service to Windows Servers. I wonder if there will be more of the same now that they have switched the whole service for their new baby

Similarly to Hotmails failure Yahoo have AltaVista in the same state of hibernation. Google acquired YouTube, another “first Internet giant in its field”. Google however chose not to rebrand it but rather keep it as a separate “cool” brand. Ever heard of Google Video? They even had a competing service when they bought YouTube, yet they decided to keep the brand YouTube. Google Video have now gone the way of Hotmail and Altavista, but YouTube lives on of course!

RIP Hotmail.

Google och Bing i blåsväder

Alla som är insatta i hur sökmotorerna fungerar vet att Yahoo numera använder Bing för att leverera sina sökresultat. Nu kommer det dock fram att Bing använder… Google!

Google började misstänka att Bing kopierade sökresultat ifrån Googles index när ett udda sökresultat hos Google även rankades högt hos Bing. För att testa sin teori om att Bing faktiskt medvetet kopierade sökresultat satte Google upp en avancerad fälla.

Google skapade sökresultat för väldigt udda ord (“hiybbprqag”, “delhipublicschool40 chdjob” med flera) och pekade dessa på sidor som absolut inte hade något med dessa konstruerade ord att göra. De gav sedan tio stycken nyinstallerade Windows-datorer till några anställda och lät dem köra Internet Explorer 8 med “site suggest” aktivt. Dessa anställda fick sedan söka på de högst udda orden på Google och klicka på länkarna. Efter bara någon vecka dök samma udda sökresultat upp hos Bing!

Efter detta experiment (som involverade flera olika sökord) gick Google ut och anklagade Bing för att kopiera deras sökresultat.

Läs mer:
Google: Bing Is Cheating, Copying Our Search Results
Bing: Setting the Record Straight

På Google-fronten intent nytt

Sällan har det väl varit så tyst från Google på deras Webmaster Central Blog. Inte sedan den 28 december har en ny post publicerats där. Där kommer annars cirka 10 inlägg per månad och nu när vi redan är framme vid den 17 januari tycker man att någon borde ha vaknat efter nyårsfesten.

Detta tillsammans med att Yahoo sällan publicerar några nyheter sedan de outsourcade sin sökmotor till Bing gör det väldigt tyst på sökmotorfronten. Bing publicerar en och annan nyhet men oftast är det kosmetika eller funktioner som endast är tillgängliga på andra sidan Atlanten.

Antingen jobbar de på något stort eller så är det bara väldigt tråkigt på sökmotorfronten just nu.

Google slutar göra vågen

Bristande intresse leder till att Google lägger sitt wave-projekt på is. Ingen mer utveckling kommer att ske för Google Wave. För min del känns det nästan både lite bra och dåligt, anledningen är att jag aldrig har hunnit sätta mig in i wave-projektet så bra som jag hade önskat men nu är jag samtidigt glad att jag aldrig lagt ner tid på det om det nu ska avslutas. För att vara helt ärlig kan jag inte säga exakt vad det är vi går miste om nu när Google Wave läggs ner, tjänsten ska dock lämnas kvar som den är året ut.

Canonical links, SEO news

googleGoogle, Yahoo and Microsoft have togheter announced the support of a new tag for web development where you can specify your canonical links. The point of this is to enable webmasters themselves to “point out” which page contains the original copy of certain information in case multiple copies are shown on the same page. In essence, if multiple links into the website can display the same content you now have the ability to point the search engine to the page that you would rather have indexed.

The code is quite simple, on each page where the information can be found simply add the following tag:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”” />

This will inform the search engine of which of the pages is the true origin of the information and which are only redundant copies. For more detailed explenation of the new tag visit the Official Google Webmaster Central.

I bet many CMS authors right now are digging into their code to add support for this new convention.

2009 – the year of the browsers

In 1989 we had zero web browsers as we know them today, allthough just about to be invented around the corner. In 1999 we had two web browsers fighting a death match, Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator – a fight with Netscape cleverly lost by dying and coming back several open source reincarnations of which Firefox of course is the most well known today. 2009 is turning out to be yet another battle year for browsers, this time many more of them! We have (in no special order) the newcommer Google Chrome fighting Firefox and Internet Explorer (mainly the PC-side). We have Opera who has cut out a piece of the action on several systems but shine mostly in portable devices. Safari is ruling the Macintosh but is starting to get some interference from Firefox.

Well that is now, what is next? I ready a post about current state of browser development, and many of the major browsers have a beta our that will maybe go live sometime during the next year. While this might be very good news for home users I am sure it will mean alot of work for someone like myself who create on-line applications. There used to be a lot of tuning to make web pages and applications look and work the same on the old “two major browsers”, now we have at least 5! Unless the browser developers makes a great effort to follow the rules of the standards each web page have to compensate for how a particular browser parses the data.

In the past Internet Explorer have seemingly intentionally ignored several standards in favour of making programmers like myself forced to make pages look good on their browser. Internet Explorer is afterall the dominating browser and it have to work. The question is if this strategy is allowed to continue. I really hope for the sake of us programmers that while there are five new browser versions about to be released that several of them will render the basic pages using the same rulset.

Zombie safe homepage

It’s been a while since I had time to post some useful information here, meanwhile so you don’t turn into zombies or even worse get attacked by them here is some helpfull code from Google themselves:

And, just in case they change the file, here are the top lines from their robots.txt:

User-agent: zombies
Disallow: /brains

User-agent: *
Allow: /searchhistory/
Disallow: /news?output=xhtml&
Allow: /news?output=xhtml
Disallow: /search

Google Blueprint CSS tutorial

This is a basic tutorial of the first use of Google Blueprint as a CSS layout.

Download Blueprint CSS
Download the main library att Google Code, at the time of this writing that is the file “Blueprint”.

There are three folders in the ZIP-file, first you have the “blueprint” folder which contains the ready to use CSS-files (ie.css, print.css and screen.css). While there are more files in that folder we will only concern ourselves with those in directly in the “blueprint” folder and not subfolders.

I will not go into detail about the two other folders, for your information the “lib” folder contains YAML source for the project and the last folder “tests” contains sample pages you can play around with if you’d like.

Fast reference PDF
There is a nice “cheat page” you can print out from a PDF, this is optional though but I found it very helpfull at least while learning the new classes.

Link the CSS-files
All you need to do is copy the three CSS-files in the “blueprint” folder into a directory of your choice in the main HTTP directory. I assume you put them in a subdirectory simply called “blueprint”. Next you need to link them in the HTML-files where you wish to use them, add the following code:

<link rel=”stylesheet” href=”blueprint/screen.css” type=”text/css” media=”screen, projection”>
<link rel=”stylesheet” href=”blueprint/print.css” type=”text/css” media=”print”>
<!–[if IE]><link rel=”stylesheet” href=”blueprint/ie.css” type=”text/css” media=”screen, projection”><![endif]–>

The first CSS defines how to display the page on normal monitors and projectors. The second file is for printing and the last file, surrounded with an IF condition to only be used by Internet Explorer, is specific instructions for the naughty web browsers that do not follow the standards.

Make a HTML file that uses the Blueprint
I assume you know HTML and CSS so I skip the basics and move straight to the new classes that blueprint offers. Simply put you need an outer DIV of the class “container” that will be the parent object of all others. Inside of this you can decleare HTML code as normal. A real simple first page could look something like this:

<div class=”container”>
<div class=”span-24 last”>
<h1>Hello World</h1>

The outer DIV is the container of all objects. The second div defines itself as a “span-24” and “last” class. Span-24 is the max width (950 pixels) and will span the entire area inside the container, last is added to signal this is the final column on this row (it’s also the only so in this case maybe a bit overkill).

Now after this it’s very easy to expand the concept, for example to make a “top headline and under menu + content” layout simply write:

<div class=”container”>
<div class=”span-24 last”>
<h1>Hello World</h1>
<div class=”span-4″>
The menu
<div class=”span-20 last”>
The content

This still doesn’t solve the more complex aspects of CSS-layout when you need everything to be “just right” but with an overall layout made this easy you can focus on the end tweaking instead of re-inventing the basic wheel everytime you need to make a new design.

The absolute best part about the Blueprint CSS is a “small” feature internally namned “rest.css” which is part of the “screen.css” file. This resets all browser settings to one single setting (Firefox, Internet Explorer etc all have slightly different default values for border, margins, padding etc) making cross platform development much much easier. Secondly, and the acctual main purpose, the ability to easily create new columns and layout modifications really improves start up development time of new designs. While the Blueprint CSS just have very basic settings it’s often these basic settings that screw up every new design I make since I tend to aim a little too high everytime I write a new CSS-class.