Google Toolbar, Greasemonkey and Butler

The debate over the Google Toolbar’s Autolink feature — which adds links to ISBN number and other text — has now moved on to debating the merits of Greasemonkey and Mark Pilgrim’s excellent Greasemonkey script Google Butler.

Google Butler is like Google Toolbar on steroids. Load it up and it strips the text ads from Google pages, adds links at the top of Google pages to perform the same search on Yahoo! and a number of other search engines, and makes some other changes.

This apparently drives people like Danny Sullivan up the wall and wants tools like Greasemonkey to allow web publishers to opt out. Yuck. Web publishers are just going to have to get used to the idea that they have no control over what happens once a page hits their web browser. Either don’t publish in HTML (go to an all-Flash site, for example) or deal with it.

Ken MacLeod has an interesting dialogue here on the futility of trying to prevent user modification of web pages,

FF: So let me get this straight, this tag will prevent any alteration of your page from being displayed?

PIA: Yeah.

FF: No image blocking, no pop-up blocking, no scaling fonts for readability, no screen readers for accessibility, stuff like that?

PIA: No, no, no, all of those are OK.

FF: The pop-up publishers don’t want us changing their content, blocking pop-ups […]

PIA: That’s different, pop-ups are evil.

It was kind of amusing to see Dave Winer complaining about people modifying his content with the Google Toolbar and then see him talk in a later post about ripping a bunch of Beatles CDs to his IPod. You know, the music industry would like to opt-out of having their CDs ripped, and the owners of the Beatles catalog have especially been opposed to even selling compressed versions of their songs. yet. I didn’t see Winer’s notice that he obtained the RIAA’s or The Beatles’ permission to modify their content.

Opt out for me, but not for thee.

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