|What's Wrong With Sheepsearch?||2007-04-10 19:34:00 GMT
by Kami Harbinger
The Electric Sheep Company's new search engine/automated grid privacy invader is upsetting quite a lot of people, myself included. Prokofy Neva covers it in The Greed Shepherd over at the SL Herald, and Anshe Chung has banned them from Dreamlands.
The fundamental problem here is the lack of respect for other peoples' wishes. If I want to be listed on a search engine, I'll go list myself and my products. If I know that an automated scanner is out there, I should have warning and the ability to block it if I decide to do so. For someone to do it and insist that everyone suddenly adapt to their decisions is an obnoxious imposition.
The web went through this early on. Early search spiders just grabbed everything, and often tried random permutations of numbers and words. People screamed and got pissed off about the invasion of privacy, the revealing of corporate secrets from intranets (one accidentally-linked page, and your entire intranet was exposed!). So now there's the robots.txt protocol, which tells spiders they're not allowed in various places. Even so, a smart site will have a ban list of several dozen known criminal hostnames and user agents who don't respect robots.txt.
Only spammers and thieves search sites in secret and then promise to let you "opt out", a promise which is almost always a lie. Honest people offer opt-in, or provide plenty of warning and an obvious escape mechanism. If the sheep had announced this tool, and made sure everyone had a month or so to take care of it, nobody'd be too upset.
We already have several opt-in search systems, and they're more than adequate. I willingly sign up for some of them. This, however, is just groteseque and abusive.
What's most revealing about it is its limitations: it doesn't scan vendors, including ESC's own SLBoutique vendors. This makes it worthless for any serious product searches. But it doesn't have to work, it's not for residents of SL; it's a checkbox on the ESC's marketing resume. All of this abuse, is for nothing except the sheep's self-aggrandizement.
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