In an interesting development, Google has released a new Site Blocker tool that allows the individual to prevent entire domains from displaying results when performing Google searches.
The purpose of the new tool is give users the power to block domains that they believe to be offensive – either due to the site content or the quality of the site. The theory is that this filtering out such sites on a user level will provide a better, more relevant searching experience for the individual.
It’s an interesting development, because it opens up the possibility of very legitimate sites being blocked by a large number of users just because of personal preferences. Imagine what would happen to Amazon or Ebay if somebody started a huge campaign to block their domains from all search results – what would the online shopping market look like then?
However, the major power of this new development lies in the data that will stored from users blocking sites. In Google own words – “while we’re not currently using the domains people block as a signal in ranking, we’ll look at the data and see whether it would be useful as we continue to evaluate and improve our search results in the future”. That seems like a pretty clear indication that Google will be closely monitoring blocked site data from now on. If certain sites get a high level of blocks from users, then they are likely to be marked as spam and see their rankings decline accordingly.
It’s another wake up call for sites publishing offensive, low-quality or irrelevant material, that they won’t be able to get away with it for ever. I’m certainly in favour of anything that drives an improvement of web content. However, the one concern I have is that there are a lot of very conservative people in the World and that abuse of this feature could put us on another step down the line to online censorship, which is a pretty alarming thought.
The new feature is rolling this month on google.com in English for people using Chrome 9+, IE8+ and Firefox 3.5+ so it won’t be here in the UK for a while. However, they will be expanding to new regions, languages and browsers soon – so keep your eyes pealed. The blocked results are also stored in your Google Account so you’ll need in order to use it.
If you want to read more about the new feature, then check out the article on Google’s Blogspot: Hide sites to find more of what you want.