The latest version of the Google Toolbar replaces the custom 404 “Page Not Found” on the website you’re at with a Google version, which has many webmasters concerned that this change may direct users away from the website they’re browsing. Conveniently, Google’s 404 page contains a Google search box, and if a user decides to use it, the visitor will be taken away from the site. Even more underhandedly, the search box on Google’s 404 page is pre-populated with data from the initial URL query on your website.
Does the premeditated act of attempting to draw users away from our websites for their own financial gain fall in line with the idea of “Do No Evil”? I think not.
The hijacking of 404 pages is also done by a majority of ISPs, who replace traditional 404 pages with their own customized search portals. Hijacking a browser, however, is not just limited to 404 pages. Famously, Canada’s Rogers Communication was even injecting their own ads on to the Google homepage (amongst others). Google took offense to that, claiming it defaced their site. But now they seem to be engaging in such behavior themselves, subscribing to the ideology of “Do what I say, not what I do.”
An obvious solution for end-users would be to remove the toolbar, but that doesn’t address the concerns of the website owners who have absolutely no control over what third-party applications their visitors utilize.