How First Click Free Clobbers Copyright, Fists Clueless Fools

Author: Gab Goldenberg

Google has officially announced first-click free, it’s new attempt to fist clueless fools for all they’re worth.
Huh? What? Read on to find out how Google is encouraging content producers to lose a little more control over their content in its ongoing efforts to fight copyright.

First-click free is Google’s new offer to webmasters: share subscriber-only content with it in exchange for us sending you traffic to those pages. In Google’s own words:

“To implement First Click Free, you must allow all users who find your page through Google search to see the full text of the document that the user found in Google’s search results and that Google’s crawler found on the web without requiring them to register or subscribe to see that content.”

So what?

If you do a search on Google, you see all the pages Google has indexed from that site. You can modify this if you’re clever to show the results from a site on a given topic, by adding keywords to the query. E.g. pay-per-click

So if I wanted to, I could access all of a site’s private content – or have a bot do that for me – simply by visiting through Google results repeatedly. And if that’s the case, then why subscribe? CD sales tanked at the turn of millenium and have continued to tank since then because many people cared little about the packaging and mostly about the music.

Well, people probably won’t be too bothered by having one tab open with Google search results – throw in a &num=100 to the end of the query so you get 100 results per page and thus need to click less – and open the results in new tabs as they deem them interesting.

I note that Philipp Lenssen of Google Blogoscoped asked if you could block people after they’ve visited a few times in the day. John Mueller of Google responded,

“When a user comes in from Google, he should be able to see the full content, always, every time he comes in from any search on any Google site. However, when that user clicks around within the site after viewing the first content, you are able to limit the available content.

“Again, if a user comes in from Google multiple times a day, he should be able to see the full content of the article (as it is crawled and indexed by Googlebot) every time he comes in from Google. It is not limited to the first time that the user comes in from Google.”

I’m sure Aaron Wall will be thrilled.

On a related note, you might like to read the Independent Webmaster’s Manifesto, and consider starting a search-independent online business in hiring / recruiting, data filtering.

Because in the medium term, it looks like affiliates and ecommerce-only sites are going to get killed off by Google. Get off webmaster welfare already!

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  1. I actually thought first click for free had been launched for a while. I've been (should I be saying this) to a client for a while. Although must highlight that it was in a non-IT related industry, and subscriptions for content were direct cost-free! But the point still exists... Could you just clarify something, the query: fails to work on thoughts?

    Comment by Ben McKay - October 20, 2008 @ 5:13am
  2. Hey Ben, The search works fine for me. That domain is made up though, obviously, and is the reason there are no results. First click free existed before the announcement (I think Webmaster World used it) but my understanding was that it was a beta or not officially sanctioned yet. I'd have to research it more, I guess.

    Comment by Gab Goldenberg - October 22, 2008 @ 11:35pm
  3. This is just like the Amazon "search inside this book" feature. You could only flip 2-3 pages ahead of your search results, but if you simply performed a new search for a specific phrase on the last page of what you could access, you were brought to the page and could again access the next 2-3 pages, and so on and so forth. I completed dozens of research papers in college without even having to check out or buy a book. While I was extremely grateful for this copyright glitch at the time, it should probably be corrected and I don't think Google need even delve into this issue at all.

    Comment by Jac - October 27, 2008 @ 2:37pm

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