Ogling at Google

Stephen Yagielowicz

This morning I found that there was yet another thread on the Cosmic Village to catch my eye, and this one concerned the popular Google Search Directory and its 'browser enhancing' tool bar. A previous XBiz Download of the Week, I was interested in what users had to say about this 'handy' surfing feature:

The thread in question was started by The Marketing Guy, who noticed a new 'experimental feature' on the current (1.1.56-Deleon) release of this addition to the Internet Explorer browser. This new feature, which is called 'Browser Control' is an effective 'pop up' killer, and according to the toolbar's documentation:

"The onUnload JavaScript event is most often used to open pop-up windows as you leave a page, which can be an annoyance. The following feature will clear the onUnload event after loading each page."

As I've written several recent articles on the use of 'consoles,' including exit 'pop ups,' I was interested in this new feature. Since many surfers (and Webmasters) absolutely hate pop up exit consoles (especially when they're misused), a number of commercial products have sprouted up in an attempt to eliminate these banes of the Web surfing experience. They are mainly stop-gap measures, however, as most new browser incarnations will almost certainly incorporate 'pop-up killers' as standard features.

This feature is available here and now on the new Google Toolbar, however, even if it is not very easy to find; requiring users to follow the 'experimental features' link after selecting 'Toolbar Options:' from the drop-down menu. Still, there is little doubt that many savvy users will adopt this, and other similar technologies, to save themselves from the 'console hells' that have been foist upon them in the past.

This particular application will not entirely prevent the spawning of consoles however, since as 'quagmyre' pointed out, the option of using the onLoad event handler to fire entrance and / or stealth (blur) consoles remains intact, and as this event handler is used for a far wider range of applications than is the onUnload handler, it is likely to not be blocked in its entirety.

The writing appears to be on the wall as far as the demise of consoles goes, however, and while some may feel that this will lead to less-intrusive advertising, I for one believe that it will lead to more intrusive means, as Webmasters struggle to recoup lost revenues once gleaned from the use of consoles. The increasing use of interstitial FPAs (Full Page Ads) is one example of a likely scenario, and an advertising method that has a much greater impact on 'surfing flow' than do consoles, in my opinion.

Installing the Google Tool Bar
Despite any potential revenue loss adult Webmaster's face at the hands of the Google Toolbar, it remains an interesting device that can enhance the surfing experience, but more importantly, it is a vehicle for taking an 'inside glimpse' at the thought processes and future directions of one of the most important traffic sources available to us. I had initially installed the Google Toolbar as a means of seeing the relative page ranks of the sites I visited, as well as how they compared to one another. I have also used the 'Image Search' feature to find a number of my Caribbean beach images online — a handy tool for content providers to check licensing compliance with. However you use it, it's an easy add-on to install, as well as to uninstall. Here's how:

Visit using your MS Internet Explorer 5+ browser and then select your language of choice from the 20 available options. Click the "GET THE GOOGLE TOOLBAR" button, and away you go. The next page reminds you of the installation requirements (Microsoft Windows 95 / 98 / ME / NT / 2000 / XP and Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 or later) as well as notifies you of your acceptance of their terms and conditions by installing the toolbar. All pretty straightforward stuff, until you hit the 'OK' button, and are presented with a pop up window declaring "Choose Your Configuration." The 'advanced' version of the toolbar seems to want to keep tabs on you more than some may care for, and so a very brief disclaimer is displayed. After all, it is FREE, and easily discarded if you're not pleased with it.

Accept the terms for the 'advanced' version (if you dare) and moments later, your new Google Toolbar will appear along with your browser's other toolbars, and just like any of the browser's other toolbars, it can be easily toggled on and off with a simple right mouse click.

I recommend that you try this browser 'enhancement' for yourself, as it is an interesting glimpse at Google and the Web beyond. After all, it is FREE, and easily discarded if you're not pleased with it. Those who do try it will find it to be a handy tool for competitive market research as well as for a number of other uses, including making your Web searches more productive; and that's what it was originally designed to do: ~ Stephen