The questions about Google's all-conquering dominance of the search market began with its stock market floatation. It was followed by the G-Mail email service with an air of exclusivity with its invitation system and hitherto unknown abilities for the company to snoop through your mail (according to privacy advocates) or organise and index emails easily (according to Google).
Now, Autolink, Google's latest feature of its updated toolbar, will place its own hyperlinks wherever it chooses on a webpage. This has the potential to lead surfers to an infinite number of sites - or a select few if Google were paid by advertisers, in the same manner as its premium searches but without the overly highlighted separation from the rest.
Microsoft, a much easier target for critics, introduced and then axed the same idea from an office update when Big Brother concerns were raised. However Autolink has to be downloaded, so the worst loss Google could suffer is a drop in toolbar usage until the feature is either tweaked, removed or made optional for users. Like its news search service, Autolink is set to remain in Beta form for the short term. It's also an IE-only feature, so the ever-growing Firefox community are safe for now.
Time will tell whether Google also has to bow to the will of the market like Microsoft and pay attention to user concerns. It's unlikely that one feature too far will hand the search market back to MSN or other rivals. At most maybe a few more people will join the 25 million strong Firefox download rate. Whatever happens, Google now has an image to maintain and protect, which wasn't the founders' top concern when they were roller-skating their way to the top of the tree.