Use of the noindex tag

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Use of the noindex tag

There's a metatag that can be added to web pages to inform the search engines not to index them. At work we recently realised that we'd lost this tag from some pages that we didn't want indexed, but it wasn't a big deal, the pages weren't sensitive, we were able to add the tag in and we were fine.

This morning I was reading the latest edition of Discover magazine (May 2006), and came across an article about the discovery of the alleged 10th planet - Xena. It was really interesting to read that they had planned to make the announcement of the discovery of the planet in October 2004, but because they had released some information about a nearby discovery, and had neglected to put the noindex tag on some sensitive pages they had to rush the announcement out in July, before they were fully prepared...

"We had used K40506A to identify the object in our abstracts, and that was dumb. We should have just used the name Santa. Turns out, unbeknownst to us, that if you went to Google and typed K40506A, you'd find yourself deep down in an inadvertently public archive of where our telescopes had been pointing. We didn't even know this archive existed, much less that you could actually get to it so easily from Google. Once you were there, you could figure out where we'd been looking.
The archive was not meant to be public. There was supposed to be one line of code in it to keep it private, but there was an error in that one line of code, and that made it available for the world to see"
On the plus side, they at least analysed their server logs, and were able to see that a Spanish observatory had viewed those pages that day, which meant that they had until nightfall when the Spanish observatory would be able to take pictures to announce their discoveries...


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