Care with rel="nofollow"

"More on passive aggressive linking with nofollow" -- Jay Fienberg, via comment on Joi Ito's blog

Interesting what trails lead through blogs sometimes. I found this while reading more about, which it seems you should avoid.

Jay makes some very good points about being precise with the semantics of Google's rel="nofollow" trick. One reason I find this so interesting is that when Google came up with this good idea, a lot of people got a little over-excited and were making noises to the effect of "see, never mind all that semantic metacrap stuff. Uncle Google gives us all the semantics we need". But Jay's note demonstrates that at best what Google gave us is a weak approximation of the sorts of nuance rich linking requires. And the fact that Google had to come up with this trick is evidence that we do need rich linking in the first place. Yes, XLink overdid things with the bewildering array of link annotation options (among other sins), but we can't just overload rel="nofollow" and expect not to be heading into our own hypocritical purgatory of metacrap. At the very least, people should be thinking of what other rel="*" conventions we can settle on in the community.

BTW, Bob DuCharme was one of the few people with sensible commentary when Google debuted rel="nofollow". See "Big week for the a/@rel attribute". But then again, what's new? Bob's the best commentator I know on linking. Full stop.

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2 responses
IMHO rel="nofollow" worked with the Web We Have Now, which is why it was relavent almost immediately, useful and interesting despite the fact it accomplishes such a small and silly little task.  XLink works with The Web We Wish We Had (or at least some people Wish), and so has always had much less relevance.
Sure.  I'm not advocating XLink.  But I am advocating against using rel="nofollow" beyond its natural meaning.  Otherwise we'll just end up making a mess of the Web we have, right?  And if we are just a bit conscious of future possibilities, just a tad bit, could we possibly go a little ways towards the Web we wished we have, especially by heading off those who are quick to exploit the possibilities (in this case spammers)?

After all, the whole point of rel="nofollow" is that spammers out-innovated us, and we had to catch up.  But I guess we're complacent about such things.