Ok, I just lost any respect I may have had for WordPress

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_

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  2. WordPress Found Spamming Search Engines

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  3. hostile17

     /  2005-03-31

    What they’re doing, while of course it’s misleading, is not “cloaking” in the sense of that article: “the webserver is programmed to return different content to Google than it returns to regular users”. It isn’t, and it doesn’t. Turn off CSS, browse with LYNX and you’ll see the ads. Technical quibble, but they aren’t guilty, according to Google’s description, of “cloaking”.

  4. Andy’s blog doesn’t have permalinks for comments, but one of the comments there is from the (relatively anonymous) Google employee GoogleGuy — and his/Google’s view seems to agree with mine on what’s cloaking or not:
    bq. Google’s guidelines are quite clear on things like hidden text and hidden links to duplicate content. People should have a skeptical reaction when someone comes trying to buy links to spammy/duplicate pages, esp. if they want control of a subdomain or a subdirectory on your own site–linking to content like that can trigger effects to a whole site’s reputation, as this person notes:

  5. WordPress.org Hosting Spam

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  6. Spam, Matt, WordPress.org — and I am exhausted. Bad mix 🙂

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    Andrew accuses Matt of “Spamming”. In what…

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  9. Even if the site is full of SPAM and non-saints ways of making google from ad-sense, the software is good… it’s like saying that Firefox sucks because it had that problem in Germany with spyware 🙂

  10. Andrea, the main problem with analogies are that they are rarely analogous. Your analogy to the undisclosed affiliate redirect in the German Firefox is one of thse non-analogous analogies. The Firefox issue was a potential privacy issue not disclosed to the users, and didn’t hurt the web as a whole, since no search engines were affected.
    There are two problems here:
    # WordPress blogs are now, by default, tainted with a permaspamlink to the wordpress.org site, since this link included in the wordpress templates, and they acted as 2nd level spam carriers for the 160,000+ spam articles.
    # wordpress.org is irrevocably linked to the WordPress product, since it’s the primary point of distribution. When wordpress.org becomes involved in dubious practices, this taints the product as well.

  11. WordPress search engine spam!

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  12. I think it is a little messed up that everybody is so up in arms and upset about this. It has not affected anybody negatively, the fact is Matt was trying to make a buck off of alot of hard work he put in. Props to him, is it ethically wrong.. maybe.. maybe not either way it hasn’t affected me negatively and I’m not go going begrudge someone who has done so much positive work because they tried me make an easy dollar.

  13. Hullabaloo

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  14. Estos chicos de WordPress son muy malos

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  15. Moral Dillema

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  17. How to loose your PageRank 101

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  18. peter

     /  2005-03-31

    ” Cloaking – something expressly disallowed:”
    No, cloaking is different. It is done by detecting the spider and feeding it different content.
    The situation with WP is hidden text.
    Neither win much favor with Google.

  19. Arguing what goes as cloaking or not, is rather futile: Technically, people may say they are different, but the end result is the same: _Human visitors and search engines *see different things.* However you choose to go about it, this is an highly unethical practice, and the search engines disallow it._

  20. Andrew Tetlaw

     /  2005-03-31

    While you’re on the subject of google ads, I just saw in your Google ads an ad from eBay claiming “great deals on Css Style Sheets, shop on ebay and save!”. When I clicked the link there were no CSS Style Sheets to be found at all, only some bed sheets.
    So while everyone gets hot under the collar at those who appear to abuse Google Ads, the greatest gift to Bloggers that has made Goggle the messia in the eyes of so many, let’s not forget the naughty tactics that other large companies like eBay try as well.
    Give the dude a break.

  21. John Marshall

     /  2005-04-01

    This whole question is about ethics and dishonesty, e.g., the -9000px presentation of the links that you’ve noted. So I think we need to be even more than usually careful with our ethicalness and honesty ourselves.
    Arve, GoogleGuy’s comment on Andy’s blog does not back up your view that this is cloaking; and this is indeed not cloaking. Please let’s be accurate, and not cause any more confusion ourselves.
    GoogleGuy labelled the use of -9000px positioning as “hidden links” and noted that that itself is against Google’s guidelines. He did not mention cloaking at all.
    It is clear from the definition of cloaking that you quoted in your posting above that “cloaking” refers to sniffing the User-Agent header for Google’s crawler, and returning different content (perhaps entirely different!) on that basis than you would for user agents used by humans.
    That’s not what’s going on here.

  22. The “Ads by Google” link on all AdSense ad blocks provide users with an option to send feedback on advertisements. This includes informing Google that an ad is misleading.
    As for “giving the dude a break” – Myself, I have not mentioned the name of the person responsible, but rest assured that I will give the person responsible every opportunity to speak up. I think most other people who have covered this story will also grant him that same opportunity.

  23. WordPress.org Spamming?

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  25. I really don’t see the point of these links. None of them link to real documents, so I don’t understand what they are trying to gain from them?

  26. Søkemotorspam

    WordPress og Google = søkemotorspam?…

  27. Cr0wley

     /  2005-04-01

    I don’t know if I’m missing something in the html (it’s late so it’s a little fuzzy) but I can’t see that code-chunk in there at the moment. Maybe they’ve stripped it?

  28. The code has been removed from the wordpress site, and Matt has also “written a response”:http://photomatt.net/2005/04/01/a-response/ — I will comment on this sometime during the weekend.

  29. Perhaps Matt got a little too enthusiastic about the whole “lucrative keyword list” from Google’s AdSense service, it’s sad that the terms of service weren’t respected but, all in all, it appears this is:

    1. A first offence;
    2. A mistake Matt’s corrected since;
    3. Something he won’t do again… ever.

    To me, even as an advertiser on Google AdSense, that’s enough.
    Matt is a wonderful individual and one “faux-pas” shouldn’t be blown out of proportion.
    Continue your wonderful work Matt, I admire your entrepreneurial spirit and your intelligence of choosing to respect Google instead of pushing ahead with shady techniques.
    Matt tried. Matt saw it didn’t work out too well. Matt is now back on track, straight as an oak. Way to go, Matt!
    Google AdSense makes my world go round, too ; )
    Respecting Google is a no brainer!

  30. Wow, Matt is so evil for doing this.
    Maybe as a punishment he should give away the WordPress software for free.
    Matt, thanks for the great software, I’ve been able to make money working from home because of all your hard work.
    ps. h8’s keep on h8n.