New Google Toolbar 3 With AutoLink Leaves Beta

Google has released an update of its Toolbar for Internet Explorer, addressing many of the concerns with the controversial AutoLink feature that adds additional hyperlinks to web pages that contain package tracking, U.S. addresses, book or automobile information. The changes are both cosmetic and functional.

"Our links look different than links put on the page that are placed by the author," said Marissa Mayer, Director of Consumer Web Products. The Google-inserted links now have a pale blue background, which distinguishes them from ordinary hyperlinks.

In addition, AutoLinks now include a number of bookstores and automotive sites in addition to the default choices offered in the beta version. You can also set your own preferred default site either through Toolbar preferences or by right-clicking a Google inserted AutoLink. Either way, once you've made a choice your preferred source is persistent until you change it again, according to Mayer.

The sluggish performance of AutoLink has also been addressed. The pull-down menus that show all suggested URLs and the display that appears when you mouse over a link now appear virtually instantly, rather than appearing after a delay with the earlier version.

While the new features address some concerns expressed by users after the initial release of AutoLink, many issues remain. For a thorough discussion of these issues, with some suggestions for changes that Google did not implement, see Danny's Google Toolbar's AutoLink & The Need For Opt-Out blog post.

If you already have the version 3 beta Toolbar installed, you can just wait and the new version will be installed automatically. Google plans to initiate the automatic update process for Toolbar users sometime in the next week or two. However, the auto update process can take up to three weeks after Google begins the process, so if you're impatient, or want to get the new Toolbar right away, download and install it now from toolbar.google.com (the Google Toolbar is for Internet Explorer only; Firefox users clicking this link will be invited to download the free third-party Googlebar, an excellent clone that I highly recommend).