Google Sidewiki Block

By Xah Lee. Date:

Google has a free browser toolbar. In their toolbar, there's a feature called sidewiki, introduced in 2009-09. It allows any user with Google account to leave a comment on any website. This feature has several social problems, and i as a site owner am rather pissed. This page gives some detail.

I've used Google toolbar once or twice in the past years. Usually, i installed it just to see what it does, as part of the process of being a web programer and technologist. One particular feature useful for webmasters is that it provides a page rank. So that, you can conveniently see any URL's page rank as measured by Google. Though, in the past, after 1 hour of use, i find it rather not useful, so i uninstalled it.

Today, i need a quick way to know Google's page rank of sites again, so i installed again. It has grown, with many other features. One feature i noticed is Sidewiki. Seems very convenient and en-powering to users, i thought.

The first thing i tried is of course to see what user has been saying on my website, I sure don't want to be left in the dark. After several tries to login thru the toolbar to my Google account, but everytime i go to, the sidewiki disappears and my login status on the bar is gray. I was quite puzzled. Perhaps because my browser has denied Google's cookies. But i set Explorer to accept all cookies, i still have this problem. After 30 min, i'm getting annoyed. Does Google block sidewiki for certain sites? For example, i can imagine, Google might do that to porn sites.

Searching the web, immediately i found several discussions about the sidewiki problem. Here's some:

It turns out, there is no way for site owners to opt out the sidewiki controlled by Google. There are several problems with this.

Also, after 30 minutes, i did not find out any answer of my original question: Does Google automatically block certain sites? If so, is there a public list, or policy on this?

I was happy when i discovered the Google toolbar forum. As usual, i trusted Google, and am about to post a nicely written question. Google's webmaster forums have been very helpful to me in the past. But then, i discovered, that Google has shut down the toolbar forum. Announced here:

[Closing Google Sidewiki help forum By Toolbar Guide Bryan, Google employee. Source , accessed on 2010-04-08 ]

They didn't leave a new URL for discussion. Instead, we are told to either use the Help page, or bug report page, or follow them on Google Buzz or Twitter. None of these are designed to support discussions or alternative views.

How To Block Sidewiki

There are several ways, but none are perfect.

Block by URL Redirect

Put the following in your Apache “.htaccess” cofig (code originally from cs1380 in the thread):

# redirect users of Google Toolbar to a notoolbar.html page
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} GoogleToolbar [NC]
RewriteRule !^notoolbar\.html /notoolbar.html [L]

The problem with this is that any Google Toolbar user will be redirected. This can significantly annoy your site visitors.


You can also insert a JavaScript that automatically redirect a URL by appending to a random "#83795" to the URL. Similar to the server redirect. For ready to use code, see: .

This solution also have lots of problems. It will introduce many complexities in your URL, for your web log, or if you are Google Analytics user. Also screws up your page rank calculation and search engine results.

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