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Google Toolbar 'BlogThis' Rankles Rivals

Search technology powerhouse Google has released a new beta of its popular Internet Explorer toolbar, adding bells and whistles for surfers. But the integration of a "BlogThis" feature isn't sitting well with some blog software firms.

Just months after its acquisition of the Blogger "push-button" Web publishing platform, Google has added a "BlogThis" feature in version 2.0 of the toolbar. But because it's exclusive to Blogger users, rival firms are worried Google might use its wild popularity to sideline the competition.

"BlogThis" automatically connects to Blogger accounts to let uses create a Weblog post pointing to the page on the browser. But, that exclusivity means users of rival blogging software -- like Radio UserLand and Six Apart's Movable Type -- have been shut out completely.

UserLand CEO Dave Winer posted a mock blogger image Thursday, chiding Google for missing an opportunity to be generous to the Weblogging community.

"Users of Radio UserLand and Manila and probably users of Movable Type and P-Machine would love to have this functionality not just work with your blogging tool, but with all blogging tools," said Winer, who publishes the Scripting News blog. "We've looked to you as a leader in the past, not as a competitor. How sad that that changed and what a lost opportunity to lead, to be generous, to create something larger than just another Silicon Valley BigCo," he added.

Six Apart vice president of business development Anil Dash was also nervous about the signs coming from the Mountain View, Calif.-based Google. "When Google bought Blogger, they insisted the integration won't exclude others and it would be neutral and that they would continue to index everything," Dash told internetnews.com, warning that Google stands to tarnish its image as a hip, community-oriented firm if it used its market strength to promote Blogger and exclude rivals.

"Google has always been community oriented. I think they'll do the right thing," Dash said, noting that rivals should be prepared to offer something in return for placement on the toolbar, possibly space for Google's new AdSense program, which shuttles pay-per-click text ads to third party sites.

"It would be foolish for them not to extract their pound of flesh from Blogger. But, if Google is going to be a platform or infrastructure provider, they will only have credibility where it's neutral," Dash added.

"Once they're perceived as the utility company for the Web, they'll have to respect regulation. They're at that position now," he added.

Google officials could not be reached for comment. However, a company source noted that the latest version of the toolbar was a "very early beta" that is likely to change before it is officially released. Google has a history of keeping new products as betas and implementing changes over the course of a few months and there is speculation that competing blog platforms could be added in future upgrades.

For now, a click on the "BlogThis" button sends users to a Blogger login page and walks non-members through a sign-up procedure. Blogger counts just over one million registered users but only about 200,000 users publish active Weblogs. It runs a free service alongside a $35 per year Blogger Pro option that offers advanced features for commercial bloggers. The company is busy preparing Blogger New, an upgrade with new features and tools.

In addition to the "BlogThis" feature, Google has also added a new pop-up ad blocker to suppress the controversial online advertising format. While alternative Web browsers like Mozilla and Opera offer easy-to-use pop-up blocking, the Google Toolbar offers the first one-click option for Microsoft's Internet Explorer users.

Google Toolbar 2.0 has also been fitted with an AutoFill tool that lets users automatically fill in a Web form with the click of a button. Google's AutoFill, which is another power-browsing option in Mozilla and Opera, lets users enter password-protected credit card information.