Nofollow is an interesting case of elitism and monoculture actually helping the system at large. Adoption of the nofollow link attribute (introduced by Google and a host of others in order to combat link spam) only makes sense if the benefit to spammers is reduced nearly to nil. That requires all or most blogs to implement nofollow.
There is a tipping point here of course. Once WordPress, Moveable Type, Blogger, Livejournal, and Xanga adopt, it may (or may not) be the case that spammers focus on blogs not hosted by these services. But given that the cost of hiring a spammer is so low, a handful of adopters are not enough. It’s like a prisoner’s dilemma, with very low payoffs all the way around.
Of course, some of the FUD surrounding the nofollow plan has already been raised. The nonofollow page (via Amidasu), for example, suggests 12 reasons not to use nofollow. I don’t think the guy who started this is a spammer. He is the author of Das Blog-Buch, and seems to think this is all a conspiracy so that Google can diminish the influence of blogs. The reasons he lists (with my response):
1. nofollow does not prevent comment spam
Nofollow aims to reduce or remove the prime (but not sole) motivation for comment spam. It remains to be seen whether or not it can be prevented.
2. nofollow is semantically incorrect
rel is allowed by HTML 4.01. I’m not sure what he means here.
3. nofollow harms the connections between web sites
No, it helps the connections between websites by making them more than simply binary. In the end, people may be more willing to allow outside linking if they know it won’t add to a page’s standing in Google.
4. nofollow is not useful for humans, just for search engines using PageRank or similar a technique
Huh? Humans use PageRank, via Google. It is therefore useful for humans.
5. nofollow could be used to shut web sites out
No, it only makes it less likely that a web site will receive a high index on Google by spamming comments (or commenting frequently in a non-spammy way). How often you comment on others’ blogs shouldn’t affect how high you show up on Google.
6. nofollow discriminates legitimate users as spammers
Legitimate users are interested in leaving a comment and engaging in discourse, not inflating their PageRank.
7. nofollow heists commentators’ earned attention
No, it just doesn’t amplify it through Google et al.
8. nofollow will not stop comment spam
Running a bit thin here? You already tried that one.
9. nofollow could be used to further discriminate weblogs
Indeed. It allows us to discriminate between those who have links created by others and those who have tried to game Google.
10. nofollow prevents the Web from being a web
Huh? It doesn’t do anything to hyperlinks. It just allows the search engines to parse them in a more meaningful way. It improves the web by moving beyond binary hyperlinks.
11. nofollow eliminates the dissemination of free speech
I’m not sure if this is any sillier than the previous. You can say anything you want. Whether others choose to pay attention to you is another matter.
12. nofollow was developed in privacy with only search engines companies taking part in the discussion
First of all, that’s not true. Reps from the major blogging platforms were also involved. Second, so what? They have provided a useful tool that interfaces with their search engine.
Google and Amazon have developed their APIs in private as well, because they interface with their services. Likewise, nofollow is a way of interfacing with Google and others, and it makes sense that they would be the ones to develop it.
Unless someone makes money in spamming or search engine optimization, I don’t understand why they would object to nofollow. On the other hand, if enough people buy the FUD, it won’t work. There needs to be near universal adoption before the cost to spammers will even register.