‘Cuz it’s not just Google, anymore. From Andy Beal, Google, Yahoo, and MSN are now supporting a common XML (eXtensible Markup Language) sitemap protocol – with a slight version increment to Sitemaps 0.9 and a brand-new .org: http://www.sitemaps.org.

Sitemaps.org, although certainly having little-to-no visual connection with Google, seems to still be hosted by Google, per the 404 error (hey, I went looking for http://www.sitemaps.org/sitemap.xml – it wasn’t there.) This is pretty fair, given that the joint use of the Sitemaps standard shouldn’t also force Yahoo and MSN to use Google branding!

Nonetheless, the Sitemaps protocol is pretty deeply associated with Google, so this is somewhat of a branding coup for them.

This unification between the “big three” in search on an agreed standard is a great development: I’m looking hopefully forward to a day when I can get similar information on the behaviors of each major search engine on a site through a “Webmaster Console”. Or perhaps an API (Application Programming Interface) release so a 3rd party can create a unified sitemaps monitor for all the search engines using the protocol!

The announcement comes from Google, Yahoo and MSN, but that isn’t to say that others can’t become involved: the protocol is intended to be an open standard, and any who choose can make use of it. Danny Sullivan comments at Search Engine Watch on his own hopes:

How about unification around other search standards, such as improving the robots.txt system of blocking pages. Again, this is something the search engines (specifically Google and Yahoo when I spoke to them), say they’re interested in. So fingers crossed, we’ll see more of this down the line.

Overall, I’m thrilled. It took nearly a decade for the search engines to go from unifying around standards for blocking spidering and making page description to agreeing on the nofollow attribute for links in January 2005. A wait of nearly two years for the next unified move is a long time, but far less than 10 and progress that’s very welcomed. I applaud the three search engines for all coming together and look forward to more to come.

No question, it’s an exciting development.