Ok been meaning to blog about this for a while now, but today is the day. It’s been bugging me. Some months ago, I noticed that the links in my Google search results would occasionally change to become long, convoluted fruit salads instead of the actual web address of the site the link was pointing to. On closer inspection, it looks like some kind of tracking code that Google is wrapping around the url.

What is this evil I see in my browser?

So when I copy and paste a url from the search results, instead of:

http://muti.co.za

I now get:

http://www.google.co.za/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.muti.co.za %2F&ei=8jMESa2LLpPmwwGe14DHAw&usg=AFQjCNH2YKkf-QfYMlyKxNFJXoaZlSXPtg&sig2=SV qel9dmAoM3A7zunrdbpA

Huh?

BoingBoing wrote about this as far back as 2005 and not much has changed. You can read about it here too. The link tracking code apparently doesn’t appear for everyone or every time you do a search. There are ways to turn it off via changing your settings or via a Firefox plugin, but this just ain’t the point.

At first it didn’t bug me, but with every link I pasted into my blog I became increasingly annoyed as it meant I had to constantly re-edit the link. I don’t want that long (unnecessary) url in a blog post or when I cut and paste a link into an email. Furthermore, why should Google track clickthroughs without my permission on my own blog? Isn’t this a bit heavy-handed and big brotherish? And what if you need to cut and paste a link into an email? These long gobbledygook links just look like errors to the uninitiated, not to mention that fact that they may also truncate?

I’ve now resorted to clicking on the link in the Google search results to clear the tracking code and then take the link from the browser address bar once at the resulting site. This I find easier than editing Google’s new link fruit salad. It also now has the (unintended?) effect of artificially inflating clickthroughs to sites — and I am sure Google doesn’t want to artificially inflate clickthroughs?

So, what’s going on Google?

6 Responses to “Google's link-tracking looks pretty evil, I'd say”
  1. Hey guy, apologies for being churlish – twas not my intention. I’ve asked around about the issue but it seems like the only answer I got was that it was covered in the articles you’ve highlighted.

  2. @Graeme — yeah I did point out it was something picked up 3 years ago. So three years later, it’s still happening. I hope anyone else who objects keeps writing about it.

    It’s also a bit churlish to suggest that if we don’t like an aspect of Google, we should basically lump it and leave for Yahoo. The suggestion is that we should not level criticism or speak our mind on areas we disagree, but sod off to another search engine?

  3. If you look at the updates in the articles they explain everything, this is a 3 year old story Matt! Very unlike you! One could always resort to the old line: Nobody is forcing you to use Google – Yahoo would welcome you with open arms.

  4. Sorry, I missed the sentence where you did point out the add-on already. :)

    Yeah, it bugs me too that it’s there. It just seems unGoogly of them.

  5. Because of that post I wrote about Google tracking clicks, a checkbox was added to the extremely useful CustomizeGoogle Firefox add-on that strips the click-tracking out of the search results and rewrites the URL to point to the actual search result.

    Hope that helps.

  6. Usage data = better search results.
    That’s something we all want… but is it worth our privacy?
    If I had the energy there is a Tech Leader post in that :)

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