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.

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