Encyclopedia Britannica: Fail

Do you want more proof that the ‘old guard’ simply does not understand the Internet? Jorge Cauz, Britannica President, said:

If I were to be the CEO of Google or the founders of Google I would be very [displeased] that the best search engine in the world continues to provide as a first link, Wikipedia. Is this the best they can do? Is this the best that [their] algorithm can do?

I understand that he’d like his product to be first, but he seems not to realize that Google’s ranking isn’t an indication of prestige or quality. It’s an indication of a site’s popularity and how often it’s linked from other sites. With the majority of the online Britannica being behind a pay wall, it’s never going be very high in Google’s PageRank. Nor should it be.

Do you want more proof? If I go to Britannica online right now, I get an HTTP error 404.  The Britannica store is working perfectly however. <snark>

The only reason Britannica is in the news is they’re going to start allowing subscribers to edit articles. Wikipedia has been doing this from the beginning, of course, but with the run-away popularity of the Internet, Britannica has to do something. I don’t see it making any difference, though. It’s far too little, too late. Asking me to pay $70 a year to help them edit their encyclopedia is not exactly an incentive.

Oooh, the site is working again.

The more I look, the more apparent it is that they just don’t get it. Britannica’s Terms of Use includes a section called Linking to the Services, which I will reproduce in its entirety:

For details on how to link to the Services, click here. Please contact Britannica when you link to the Services, so that Britannica can better understand how its content is being accessed and so that you can be contacted when changes are made to the Services that could invalidate your links. Any linking to the Services will be at your own risk and expense.

By linking to the Services, you agree that you will not:

  • imply in any way, by manner of presentation of the link or otherwise, that Britannica endorses your site, products or services, or that you are affiliated with Britannica in any way.
  • frame Britannica content, surround it with your own advertising or identity, or charge a fee for any link to the Services.
  • link to the Services from any Web page or Web site containing libelous, obscene or criminal material, or material that infringes, violates, or advocates the infringement or violation of any third party rights.
  • host, publish, broadcast, rewrite or redistribute any content on the Services except as permitted in these Terms of Use or as specifically permitted by Britannica.

The fact is, they cannot prevent me from linking to them. My creating a link to their site does not involve me in any contractual relationship, despite what they claim. The Internet is based on links and that they think themselves somehow special enough to determine who is allowed to link to their site is laughable.

Even funnier is the part about Britannica wanting a would-be linker to report links so they can follow up at a later date if they change the site in a way that invalidates the link. As if they seriously plan to do this. Please.

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2 Comments

  1. Shawn
    Posted January 23, 2009 at 13:13 | Permalink

    I just went to the site to see for myself. I did a simple search and it was slower than I could possibly imagine. Then came the pop-up asking me to try the free subscription. Ya, right, you need a credit card to try and should you forget to cancel, you are then automatically dinged the $70 for the year. I can honestly say, I will NEVER use their service.

  2. Shawn
    Posted January 23, 2009 at 13:16 | Permalink

    And even better, the search results actually lead me away from their site to other external sites. i love the attitude of, if you are not going to pay, stop hanging around and leave please. it makes me feel so warm inside.

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