Hotlinking is a practice where you insert an image on the web somewhere by using the address of an image that is on another server that doesn’t belong to you. Many forums ban hotlinking, but many others don’t care. If it is a product for sale I don’t feel like the person selling the product would care that much since it is helping to get word out about the product, but I still think it is wrong. To me it is better to copy the image and put it on my own server and then link to someone else’s and use their bandwidth, though I realize not everyone has a server. Even that is wrong. For the Flashlight Wiki, I always get permission to use someone’s picture, give them credit, and host it on the site. There are websites that let you host images for just this purpose like photobucket, but there are restrictions.
Going over the web use statistics for Flashlight Wiki, I was finding a huge number of referrals from an Indonesian website. I was getting over 4,000 hits from that page. Plus the page had a couple of other versions that were generating another 1,000 hits. But these weren’t real referrals, they were just hotlinking images stored on flashlightwiki.com. This page did at least have the Flashlight Wiki listed as a source and 25 people clicked on that link to see the original page.
The page was actually a translation of another page with extensive hotlinking done on Budget Light Forum. That post generated another 2,000 hits and no actual referrals because the author didn’t include a link to the wiki. Here is one of the images that was used (hotlinked!):
Ultimately, I’m not being hurt that much. I get a certain allowance from my web host service for bandwidth and I only go up to about 10% of the maximum allowed. But the hotlinking represents more than half of the referrals from sites that are not search engines.
One way to combat hotlinking is to swap out the image being hotlinked with another one then the page using the image will see the new image. It might say “NO HOTLINKING” or “IMAGE REMOVED” or something like that. There are some great ideas out there if you look for hotlinking images. One time Jeb accidentally hotlinked an image for one of his websites and the indignant site owner swapped out an image of a hamburger, just to send a message. I thought that was pretty funny, so here is what the Indonesian page discussing LED’s (which hotlinks a bunch of images, including the one above) now looks like:
The only thing is that my wiki is using that picture as well, so I had to upload a copy of the correct picture to the wiki and then link my pages to the new image (interestingly, the wiki software won’t let you upload two images of the same thing, so I had to change the original image first and then upload the old image, so for a few minutes the wiki was showing the new image). None of the wiki pages link to the old image anymore. So it was kind of a pain, but a fun way to send a message.