I’ve been thinking a fair bit about comment spam lately. I haven't been particularly afflicted with it lately *touches wood* but I've had some interesting comments in a recent post in this blog from somebody defending the practice of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) (a post about this is forthcoming). Then of course there's the news about adapting no follow tags to combat comment spam on blogs.
Because this blog is a TypePad blog, no follow tags have already been implemented. If you don’t believe me, look at some comments, view the source code and do a Find search on “nofollow.” Unlike MovableType bloggers, I haven’t needed to do a thing to implement this. What this means is that any URL that’s posted in a comment won’t get any PageRank benefit from Google – and equivalents with Yahoo and MSN Search, although I don't have any details concerning them. This means that you can link to sites that you hate and not worry that they’ll get any PageRank benefit from your link - not that I'm planning on taking advantage of this.
There seem to be two points of view about the no follow tag. The positive view is that this unprecedented cooperation between the major search engines and the producers of blogging software is the silver bullet that will end most comment spam. The negative view is that the no follow tags will only impact on one sort of comment spam and that the other sort may worsen. According to this point of view, this adaptation of the no follow tag isn’t really about ending comment spam but to be seen to be doing something about it. Other critics point out that the no follow tag will lead the PageRank of blogs being diminished, because legitimate links in comments will also be affected. There is also a concern that this change will lead to a nastier blogosphere, because people will abuse the no follow tag.
I'm not yet sure what I think. Those who say that this is the end of the blogging world as we know it are being alarmist. After all, no follow is only meant to apply in comments, not actual blog posts (of course some people will be able to add these tags manually in their posts). I am slightly worried that if we take away the ability of comment spammers to benefit from choosing quality hosts for their parasitic ends, they will go all out on quantity, and try to drown us in a nasty deluge of spam that will be most unpleasant to deal with. But on the whole, I think it is a positive, albeit imperfect development. It may backfire, but hopefully those problems will be fixed as they arise.