As Google's Backward Links counts seem to have stabilized for December 2008, we began compiling our S&F Top 50 Fourth Quarter 2008 rankings. After we'd logged the Backward Links counts for about 1/4 of our list of some 145 classical music blogs, we received this notice from Google on our attempt to retrieve the Backward Links count for the next blog on our list:
... but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can't process your request right now.
We'll restore your access as quickly as possible, so try again soon. In the meantime, if you suspect that your computer or network has been infected, you might want to run a virus checker or spyware remover to make sure that your systems are free of viruses and other spurious software.
If you're continually receiving this error, you may be able to resolve the problem by deleting your Google cookie and revisiting Google.
Needless to say, our system is virus- and spyware-free, and we of course deleted every Google cookie on our machine, but to no avail. Google continues to refuse to honor our search requests for Backward Links counts (we're apparently in violation of a Google TOS which prohibits "Using any software that sends queries to Google to determine how a website or webpage ranks on Google for various queries"). Consequently, it seems the S&F Top 50 is now out of business permanently unless we can find an appropriate and qualified alternative data source to use as the basis for our S&F Top 50 rankings.
We don't hold out much hope for that.
It's been fun.