Google announced that the URL to Google’s structured data tool now redirects to a landing page. The landing page encourages users to try Google’s Rich Results page, while using a near invisible button to link to the new Schema.org Structured Data Validator.
Google Announces Schema.org Structured Data Validator is “Stabilized”
While the fact that the announcement of the redirect is hidden at the bottom of the page of a December 2020 blog post is odd, what’s really curious is the way Google characterizes the Schema.org structured data validator in words that imply it’s not ready in a statement saying that it is ready.
Specifically, the announcement doesn’t say that the competing Schema.org structured data validator is out of beta (which would be normal).
The announcement by Google says that the Schema.org structured data validator has stabilized.
Google Says Schema.org Structured Data Validator has Stabilized
Stabilized is a word used for a hospital patient whose condition has stopped deteriorating.
Here’s what the announcement said:
“Update on August 9, 2021:
The Schema Markup Validator has stabilized, and Google now redirects the Structured Data Testing Tool to a landing page to help you select the right tool.”
Is Google’s Landing Page Promotional?
The new landing page feels promotional because it actively encourages visitors to first use Google’s Rich Results page:
“Google recommends that you start with the Rich Results Test… “
When it comes to the competing Schema.org validator, Google uses less flattering words like “generic” and describes the competitor in the context of what it does not have:
“For generic schema validation… without Google-specific validation.”
Considering that this is the URL that users of the discontinued validator will have bookmarked, it almost seems like Google is encouraging users to its own tool at the expense of the competing Schema.org tool that is most likely to satisfy users of the discontinued Google structured data validator.
Google Structured Data Testing Tool
The Structured Data Testing Tool tested whether the structured data is valid. Negative responses were categorized as either warnings or errors.
The tool was greatly appreciated because it was useful for troubleshooting structured data.
A sandbox feature allowed changes to be made right in the tool to explore possible solutions to errors and provided an interactive way to learn about structured data code.
All of those useful features are available in the non-Google Schema.org Structured Data Validator.
Screenshot of Schema.org Structured Data Validator
Slow Retirement of Structured Data Testing Tool
Google announced in July 2020 that the structured data testing tool was being retired in favor of the more Google-specific Rich Results Test.
Many publishers were upset that Google’s structured data validator was going away.
Thus in December 2020 Google announced that the structured data testing tool would not disappear but will live on at Schema.org.
The announcement acknowledged the disappointment felt by the SEO and web development community:
“Since then, we’ve heard your feedback and we’d like to give an update on what the future looks like for the Structured Data Testing Tool.
To better support open standards and development experience, we’re… migrating it to a new domain serving the schema.org community… The main purpose of the tool will be to check syntax and compliance of markup with schema.org standards.”
The new Schema.org validator could now be found at validator.schema.org but was labeled as an in-development tool.
Google Structured Data URL Redirects to Landing Page
Google is now redirecting the discontinued Google structured data validator URL to a landing page that promotes the use of Google’s Rich Results Test tool and also links to the new Schema Markup Validator tool.
Google promotes the Rich Results Testing tool by prominently recommending users start with it.
It makes sense to have a landing page that explains that the Google structured data validator is gone and where to find a replacement.
But the page seems to go beyond an explanation.
Is Google Using Dark Patterns?
Dark Patterns is a method of presenting information in a way that appears like a choice but is designed to guide the user to make the decision the company wants, often against the best interest of the user.
Researchers have noted that Google and other tech companies use dark patterns to cause users to do things like give up their privacy (Deceived by Design, PDF) by making it difficult to opt out of privacy invasion and very easy to opt-into it.
A typical dark patterns trick is to make the button they want users to choose stand out, while making the button they don’t want users to choose fade into the background.
Google uses a bright blue button for the link to their Rich Results tool and uses a white button that fades into the white web page for the competing structured data validator.
Here is a screenshot of the button Google uses for their Rich Result Tool on the new landing page:
Highly Visible Button
The button for the Schema.org testing tool is colored white on a page that has a background color of white.
Nearly Invisible Button to Competing Validator
It’s almost as if Google is actively encouraging people looking for the validator to visit their own Rich Results tool while hiding the link to the competing tool by making the button white so it blends into the background.
Google’s 53 word description of the Rich Results tool gushes about all the features it has.
The 16 word description of the Schema.org tool uses 30% of the words to say what it does not have.
You decide what choice Google is encouraging visitors to make…
Schema.org Validator is “Stabilized”
Although Google is seemingly encouraging users to use its own tool, the new Schema.org tool is live and ready to be used. The landing page still says it is in beta but presumably that message may be removed soon.
The Official Schema.org Structured Data Validator
Google’s December 2020 Announcement of Schema.org Tool
An Update on the Structured Data Testing Tool