It’s time to talk about comment spam again, but this time its good news. Google has used their position at the top of the search engine heap to promote a new standard for helping to reduce the effectiveness of comment spamming on blogs and forums. They go into detail about this method on their blog, but basically it involves adding a new attribute, ‘rel=”nofollow”‘ to any link tags that should be ignored by Google when calculating its ranking of a page. So if all links posted in blogs comment pages contain that attribute, they’re usless for pumping up the Google ranking of other pages which is the main point of comment spam. In a rare display of search engine unity, MSN and Yahoo will support this attribute also.
Developers of blogging software have already started adding this attribute to be added to any kind of spammable user generated content by default. For example, Movable Type has a plugin available that I’m installing, and would recommend that anyone else running MT install. This initiative is only going to be useful if it recieves mass support. I’m not convinced it will be useful in actually reducing comment spam, at least not in the short term and maybe not ever. If there’s one thing spammers have shown, it’s that they value volume a thousand fold over effectiveness. It takes so little effort to spam that even if it becomes completely useless, I’m not convinced they’d stop doing it. I’d be willing to bet that right now, somewhere some spammers have microwave antenna set up broadcasting spam into the depths of space hoping that maybe in a couple thousand years an advanced alien race will stop by hoping to pick up some herb4l V1AGR4 and refinance their mortgage. I think the real benefit for this effort is more for the search engines themselves than for bloggers. If this takes off, it’ll help drop tons of useless spamming web sites from gaming the system to get higher rankings in search results, making those results more accurate and reducing noise. Even if that’s all it does, then its still good enough for me.