I already “linked”:http://virtuelvis.com/archives/2005/03/wordpress-search-engine-spam to “Andy Baio’s discovery on wordpress.org”:http://www.waxy.org/archive/2005/03/30/wordpres.shtml
I was only mildly upset about the whole matter, thinking
They surely could have found a means of generating revenue that wasn’t in a grey zone. Well, they surely just stepped out of that grey zone.
Toward the end of the HTML source on the wordpress web site, you will find this (Update: This code exists both on the front page, on /about/, and a number of other WordPress pages – see this “MSN Search”:http://search.msn.com/results.aspx?q=Sponsored+site%3Awordpress.org&FORM=QBRE ):
The key here being the -9000px text indent: This makes the link invisible to human visitors with CSS, and visible to every search engine on the planet.
Google has a word for this: “Cloaking”:http://www.google.com/webmasters/faq.html#cloaking – something expressly disallowed:
The term “cloaking” is used to describe a website that returns altered webpages to search engines crawling the site. In other words, the webserver is programmed to return different content to Google than it returns to regular users, usually in an attempt to distort search engine rankings. This can mislead users about what they’ll find when they click on a search result. To preserve the accuracy and quality of our search results, Google may permanently ban from our index any sites or site authors that engage in cloaking to distort their search rankings.
What wordpress is doing, is in principle not very different from what the human dungheaps normally touted as “comment spammers” are doing, and I sincerely hope that they are dropped from Google.
_Update: Matt has written a “response”:http://photomatt.net/2005/04/01/a-response/ to the whole incident, and “I am satisified”:http://virtuelvis.com/archives/2005/04/matt-responds with that response_