I logged in this morning to see a message from Wendy pointing me at this article.
It seems the new version of the Google Toolbar detects a 404 error code and serves up Google’s own “helpful” replacement 404 page.
Why is this “helpful” behavior bad? As well as a link to the domain root they provide a prominent search box pre-filled with search terms. The temptation is going to be to hit that search button, effectively taking away your visitor.
How many people are going to be affected by this? Probably a small number. Not sure how many people have the toolbar installed but I don’t think the impact will be huge, the issue is more about Google again putting their own needs before those of the webmaster. Biting the hands that feed them just one more time.
You can see more discussion over at DigitalPoint and other forums. Some webmasters are very upset by this.
From what I understand this is still beta software, perhaps in the final version Google will make this optional or remove the feature if the backlash heat gets too much?
Do you think Google is going too far? Is Google putting their needs above webmasters? Are Google “evil”? Please share your views in the comments …