There are reports leaking about Google’s latest beta tool bar that, when you navigate to a broken link, will lead you to Google’s custom 404 page for search. So I had to find out for myself by installing the beta tool bar for IE. Interesting results on my own domain. For my root domain of ruizology.com where I have a very basic search algorithm for lost links, I had to specify a specific page (i.e. this is a broken link) before my personal 404 page was hijacked by Google. On this sub-domain where I have instant search using ajax, there was never a redirect to Google’s 404 search page (ie. another broken link on tech). I guess it all depends on how you set up your domain. If you have a default 404 page, it will trigger Google to redirect the request. Not necessarily a bad idea for old Web 1.0 sites but it is disturbing that when you look at the url, it still looks like you are on the site that is broken.
Bloggers on the web are raising the question of how Google is using it’s power to direct traffic to it’s site, though you did add a tool bar called ‘Google’s Toolbar’ to start the whole process. This is not an inherent property of the browser you were using. Plus Google gives you easy to find instructions on how to disable the 404 feature. I guess I am still on the side that Google is in clear water, though I can understand why others are mindful of the direction Google is taking. I do not contest that Google is becoming the next Microsoft, I just think that their approach is more open to options for the end-user vs. how Microsoft handled users’ requests. I hope they keep that mentality on every project they work on.