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[Update, 15:10 - www.timesonline.co.uk is now back in Google's index. They went from having 0 pages indexed this morning to a quarter of a million just now. The SEO guys at the Times are saying there was a techinical issue of some sort causing the dropout - I am unconvinced and cannot see how any technical problem (which no SEO I know could detect) could simply take an entire site out of the index and then pop it back in again. All I can say is I can imagine both Google and The Times offices have had busy mornings. I'll update again if I find out more.]
A quick post to recap on some breaking news from this morning: The Times has, as promised, begun launching it's online Paywall today, and one of the most powerful sites in the UK, www.timesonline.co.uk has entirely disappeared from Google's index (hat tip to Malcolm Coles for spotting this on Twitter): a search for "times online" does not return the homepage, and a site: search for the entire subdomain displays 0 results:
It does not appear that this is the result of the paywall going up - in fact, the paywall isn't up yet and you can still view the content on TimesOnline.co.uk. A quick check of the Robots metatags on the site shows no sign of a "noindex" metatag to instruct Google to remove pages from the index, and no blocking of the site within the robots.txt. In any case either of those wouldn't result in such a fast, broad deindexing of the site. No, it seems that Google has manually removed the entire timesonline.co.uk site from its index, either at the direct request of Rupert Murdoch (or his best minions), or perhaps this was an initiative from Google itself (in interesting thought, if less likely).
NB: at present the subdomains on timesonline.co.uk (eg business.timesonline.co.uk, technology.timesonline.co.uk) are still indexed. This may change down the line, but at the moment it is only the main subdomain, www.timesonline.co.uk that is affected.