The Skweezer controversy

The other night, I was Googling something and I found myself on a strange looking site. It was a blog, but instead of the standard graphics it was all text with some green symbols at the top. I noticed that the URL began with `http://www.skweezer.net/s.aspx/2/www.domain.com/` which was kind of strange but I didn’t think that much about it. I just thought it was a low-key, understyled blog.

Turns out, the site was “skweezed” by [Skweezer.net](http://www.skweezer.net) which takes the content and strips out the graphics, javascript, flash, etc. reformatting the site so it views well in a phone or PDA. Hmmmm… as someone who has occasion to visit websites on a PDA, I think it’s a great idea. I can also see how it’s an easy way to view a more accessible (and safer) version of a site since the javascript, styles and constraining margins are stripped out.

The controversy is in how Skweezer pays for itself with small ads below their “borrowed” content. Catch is, if a site (like this one) already has javascript-generated ads, those ads don’t come along for the ride. That affects the revenue of the sites whose content is reused, without permission to boot. A site like mine is not going to see a difference, but it can take quite a chunk out of a site with much larger revenue. I know I found a Skweezer site via Google before I found the original before I was sure what I found, so it’s a legitimate concern.

The issue is laid out [on this site](http://calacanis.weblogsinc.com/entry/1234000450025233) and expanded in the comments. Commenters are quick on the attack, which seems like overkill. I don’t sense that this is something slimey, just not completely thought-out. We’re redefining how we do these things as we go along.

The developer of Skweezer [addresses the concerns in his blog](http://greenlightwireless.net/blog/archive/2004/12/29/146.aspx). For me, it all came down to the search engine issue with the ads. If someone is using a browser that can’t display the site’s content or has accessibility issues, I’m happy for a site like Skweezer that does the reformatting so I don’t have to for those folks who *specifically request* that the content be reformatted. I don’t write to my ads like some sites do, But I want to be sure my site comes up in a Google search and not another site using my content.

>Although some of the attacking this week was mean-spirited, some very useful perspectives were shared by other content publishers. I contacted and discussed this with Darren Rowse, who publishes the LivingRoom, and he clued me in to an unintentional harm of an open Skweezer. He said that “you are duplicating my content – unfortunately Google does not look upon this well and has been downgrading the page ranking of pages whose content appears on multiple pages.” Sure enough, he was right: as of today, Google had indexed 28,000 pages through Skweezer. As a conduit, we have no interest in being the destination for search queries. We took immediate action. We updated our robots.txt file to disallow robots, and we sent an emergency request to Google to remove Skweezer from their index.

Works for me.