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Deep-linking images

Want more hits in your httpd log? It's very easy: Make or take a picture of a popular subject (such as a popular hobby, cover art or snapshots of a known movie, etc.) and put it somewhere in your website so that google can find it. That's it. You are guaranteed to get increased hits in the near future.

The problem with this is that it's usually a burden to your web server and bandwidth, without any benefit. That's because people will start deep-linking to your images.

Deep-linking to an image means that you put an <img> tag with a direct url to the image in another website. This will make the image be embedded in the webpage as if it was originally stored in that website even though it isn't.

What is worse, it also means that the webpage is basically using someone else's bandwidth instead of its own in order to show that image to the user. The user's browser is (rather transparently) directed to download the image from somewhere else.

This wastes the bandwidth of the server where the image is actually stored. The server could use this wasted bandwidth for something more useful to its owner. The more popular the deep-linking page is, the worse the impact. I have personally experienced really pathological cases, for example where, because of deep-linking in a popular web forum, an image (of over 100 kB in size) has been loaded over 15000 times in one month. This "popularity" has not benefited me in any way, but instead has wasted about 1.5 gigabytes of bandwith, just for stupid forum post somewhere. And that was just one month. While the downloading steadily decreased over time, it continued for several months afterwards too (although they were just getting 404 after I caught this).

Deep-linking to other people's images is dangerous too. That's because you can never know what they will change that image to. They may well change it to goatse, a pornographic picture or something else.

Personally I have started using a small (in file size) "middle-finger" image prank to most people who deep-link to my images. Here's an example snapshot of such a deep-linking prank. Perhaps these people will learn the dangers of deep-linking.

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