I’ve got a little project on the go at the moment to list all the software I’ve got on all of my machines. I’m using del.icio.us to store the homepages of each item of software, and tagging them with a label for each machine the software is on, and the version number installed. The logic behind this is that if I need to reinstall a machine, I have a checklist prepared for what needs to be installed, and the links to get the downloadable software all in one place. It is a bit of work, but I’m doing it over a few nights, and am getting there.
As I do this, I am searching a lot on Google, and what I notice there disturbs me a little. When I look up VNC or VLC for instance, the first results are paid-for links to sites other than the homepage, but which are offering the software I am after. The first unpaid link is the proper homepage. Now, I know this is how Google works, and being aware of this, I know not to use the paid-for links. How many people don’t? For a relatively low cost, you can hijack the link to a popular piece of software, and if you are somewhat more unscrupulous, have the opportunity to sell "free" software, or even to provide spyware and all sorts of things. These links just shouldn’t be the first results, as they could cause all sorts of issues for Google’s users. Google probably doesn’t mind much as it gets the clickthrough revenue, but it just isn’t very helpful.