"Googlebar: Some Notes About PageRank"

Some Notes About PageRank

Over the past several years, we've received many requests to add the ability to show web page rankings (Google's famed "Pagerank") for every website visited, much as the Internet Explorer toolbar produced by Google has always been able to do- in fact, it is, by far and away, the single most requested feature in user feedback. However, because the Googlebar project has proceeded separately from Google Inc, we've never added this feature in all these years. As the questions surrounding pagerank continue to grow and change, recent developments have made us decide to post a few words about our position to share with our users, as well as some advice and important notes.

Legal Concerns

As some of the more... excitable... posts have pointed out over the years since the project began, it's certainly possible to get the Google Pagerank values of a site directly from Google, if you don't mind reverse engineering a little now and then. However, while we've received several offers of scripts that do this, these have disappeared from time, mainly because Google Inc. (who, we should point out, owns the very word "Pagerank" in the first place) has taken a dim view of this. In our private correspondences "behind the scenes", the main reason that Google staff have cited for taking down private pagerank scripts is that they often open the system to potential wide-scale abuse, especially by people looking to enhance a set of websites' rankings artificially and by making hundreds of requests for site ranks in a short time.

While there has been some mention over time of Google creating, on their own, a way for people to get page rankings directly from Google itself, this has not yet emerged in a form usable by the Googlebar project... however, because Google has always been willing to tolerate the existence of another knockoff of their products- in this case, this very project!- we have to date always chosen not to include any code that would include Pagerank display, because of the legal issues with Google that this would potentially bring. This situation persists into the present day, and explains why the independent Googlebar project has never incorporated the same ability to show Pagerank values as is present in the Internet Explorer Toolbar made by Google Inc.

Separate projects

However, although the Googlebar project has never incorporated these features itself, several other projects have arisen over time that do contain this ability. While we should stress that these projects are in no way affiliated with or supported by either Google Inc. or the members of the Googlebar project, these do provide options for those interested in seeing Pagerank values when they visit a website. However, read the section below for a note on privacy concerns involved in using these extensions.

Privacy Issues

If you are considering installing either of these extensions, please remember that we at the Googlebar project can provide no support in using them, and for that you should contact the respective authors of the extensions. However, given the recent popularity of such extensions, we would like to offer the following advice to our users who are considering installing them:
In order to display pagerank values for a site, it's important to remember that the extension must get them from somewhere, and since the formula is so complex, this is usually from Google inc, via a script hosted on a third-party server. However, this means that whenever you visit any web page, the only way Pagerank can be displayed is by sending (along with your IP address) the URL of each and every web page you visit. The sites that these scripts are hosted on are both, as of this writing, separate from both the Googlebar project and Google itself, and so this means that is you choose to use these extensions, a third party will be given in essence a complete copy of your browsing history.

At present, we stress that we have absolutely no reason whatsoever to believe that any extension is abusing this privilege; to the best of our knowledge, this scripts are intended only to retrieve and display pagerank values. However, we do not have access to these scripts ourselves, and so if these privacy concerns are an issue for you, you may wish to reconsider installing an extension that does this.

For more information on privacy concerns in Pagerank extensions for Mozilla, please contact the authors of the extension that you are considering using. If you are concerned about privacy issues in the Googlebar itself, we would like to note that all the functionality of the basic Googlebar is run from the computer on which it is installed (except, of course, for help files, which appear on our project web site). Because of the unique architecture of Mozilla, and the open-source nature of the Googlebar, you can view and examine the full source code of the Mozilla Googlebar at your leisure if you are familiar with JavaScript and XUL, and we are always willing to discuss any privacy concerns you may have.