A recent article on the Wall Street Journal site might be a preview of the Microsoft features still to arrive in our browsers. Dubbed "Internet Explorer Smart Tags", they could reignite the Third Voice-style debate from the past.

Smart Tags, like the infamous Third Voice plugin, result in your audience seeing your site in a manner not intended by you. Imagine your site littered with links (to Microsoft, and Microsoft-preferred sites) taking your visitors away. Not many people would be too happy with that. Let's try that again: Would anyone be happy with that?

Microsoft is making assurances that Smart Tags will be disabled by default, and that site owners will be able to "block" them from effecting their audience with a simple meta tag, but shouldn't this process be reversed? Shouldn't site owners place a meta tag if they want Smart Tags to impact them?

One reason behind the offering (and you can bet that it isn't the primary goal!), according to Microsoft, is that it will help "under-linked" sites. Some sites might be under-linked for a reason, or they might purposefully place their links in a sidebar or footer to avoid cluttering the content area. Additionally, under-linked content areas are hardly a bad thing � content full of distracting links can impede reading. Some content, like JWZ's grouchy pages, hardly need any more links� ;)

It's a smart play by Microsoft. Many older sites and unaware developers won't place the Smart Tag blocking meta tag, and subsequently become littered with Microsoft-happy links, substantially raising the number of visits to their web properties. Also, it is possible that many re-branded ISP-releases of Internet Explorer could come with this feature enabled by default.

Smart and helpful for Microsoft perhaps, but I can hardly imagine the web development community being too pleased with the introduction of this feature.

Read the full WSJ article and see what you think.

Would this help any of your sites at all? Would it help you as a user of the web? Add a comment below and share your opinion.