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Deep linking and bandwidth theft?

 2:15 am on Jul 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

I run a small fan site that recommends stories written by other fans (aka fanfic recommendations)
and I am disturbed by the number of archives that are coming up with a 'no deep linking' policy.

For example, one of the biggest fan fiction archives out there, The Gossamer Project,[krycek.gossamer.org ], has this to say about linking:

We do not permit "deep linking," which is when you provide a link directly to one of the stories on our site. Such links remove the context around the story and replace it with your own. We expend a considerable amount of effort to index and display stories in a consistent, readable format. Linking directly to the stories makes them appear to be part of your site instead of ours and imposes a substantial drain on our resources to serve those stories.

And another site that says:
This website is one that costs money for me to maintain and as such, I frown deeply on bandwidth theft. That is linking to any text, image, or HTML file associated with my site. It's not polite and is ethically questionable.

However when I deep link, I make it clear that this is offsite content, ie.

<Direct Story Link to Html File> by Author [<Some Big Archive's Front Page>]

Perhaps I'm missing something obvious, but I don't understand the 'bandwidth theft' argument. If I point the way directly to a story, it uses less bandwidth than forcing the user to go through the front page, and drilling down 3 or 4 pages, which is more bandwidth, not less. Maybe they are confusing this with the 'content ownership' issue?



 2:42 am on Jul 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

Welcome to wmw, nitid.

I'm not familiar with the site, but as a publisher myself, I suspect their 'theft' concern revolves more around their loss of opportunity to present their site or -more likely- their advertisements to the visitor.


 2:45 am on Jul 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

nitid - welcome to Webmaster World. For what its worth, I think this problem will be increasing, not decreasing, in the future. There's an active discussion about a recent court case going on here [webmasterworld.com].


 2:46 am on Jul 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

I agree that it is a questionable policy. I've discovered and bookmarked many sites by following a deep link, because the site had much more of interest to offer.

Why run a web site while actively discouraging visitors? It's a clear case of people blindly following the lead of others without stopping to think it through. They can certainly sell advertising on these pages, can't they?

That said, it's their set of toys and if they want to kick the table and upset the game, well that's their right and we have to live with that; just as we have to live with the sight of people who wear their hair in mullet hairdos and walk around in MC Hammer Genie pants. That's life.


 2:52 am on Jul 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

I was about to post a follow up here, but maybe any followup should just go to [webmasterworld.com...] ?

There is a long running discussion of this topic there with some excellent links.


 3:03 am on Jul 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

This website is one that costs money for me to maintain and as such, I frown deeply on bandwidth theft. That is linking to any text, image, or HTML file associated with my site. It's not polite and is ethically questionable.

It sounds to me like the author of this policy is just confused about HTML or doesn't understand what it is he is trying to prohibit. "Linking" to an image -- that is, putting an IMG element in my document that has its SRC on your server -- is indeed not a polite thing to do without explicit acknowledgement and it does make it look like your image is part of my page. But this is a form of transclusion, it is not "linking" in the ordinary web sense of the word.

The author complains of "linking to any text." Does he mean to a page? You can't "link to text" in the way you can include an image. Linking to an HTML file is what the web is about; you can't stop that, and if you put something on the web you must expect people to link to it (i.e., make A elements that take a visitor to the page). Perhaps the author means that people should not create *frames* that contain his page as one of the frames - that I would also agree is ethically dubious unless explicitly acknowledged. It just really seems that the person isn't clear what he is complaining about.

What about people who arrive at these pages via search engines? Every page on the web is a potential entry point, and if an author doesn't include enough context on every page for visitors to orient themselves then that's the fault of the author, not the visitors.

brotherhood of LAN

 2:53 am on Jul 9, 2002 (gmt 0)

yep, my impression of deep linking is linking to anything deep within the site away from the home page.

What the quotes "seem" to be talking about when I run through it, is something more like putting their website in a frame (i.e. thats how they would waste bandwidth, and the frame may put things "out of context"). Not sure though.

I for one, insist that deep linking is a good thing. One of the advantages of a web site over a book is you can flick between pages without having to use "page numbers" i.e. flick through them one by one!. Using this analogy with two books with two different owners though....hmmmm.

I am going to read up on those great deep linking threads and make my stand for the cause! :)


 11:49 am on Jul 11, 2002 (gmt 0)

I have about 4-6 new webistes linking directly to my pictures everyday and that cost time to change the filename so they get a 404 and the problem is that my site offer a free service so I relay on my ad banners around my page, thats the only income, so if you link to a piture or text it is bandwidth theft.



 12:13 pm on Jul 11, 2002 (gmt 0)

By "linking to text" I believe we are talking about something that is fairly unique to the "fanfic" or "online stories" niche. A good many fic archivers post stories (not their own, mind you, and many that I've seen I question their claim to the story in the first friggin' place) as text files pulled directly off the newsgroups. Therefore, if you are linking right to that text file, you are, in fact, bypassing their work and stealing bandwidth based solely on the fact that they are too lazy to convert the story to html and add a link back to their homepage.

Unfortunately, there's probably not a lot you can do about this simply because the only reason they are in this situation is because they are lazy. Therefore, getting them to do something to assist you is probably out of the question.

99% of the fanfic stories that have been archived with permission have at least a hotmail address for the author in there with the disclaimer. Bandwidth and disk space for stuff like this is cheap - a $5 a month host would be fine for something like this. Write to the authors, ask them permission, and post them on your own site. A good many of them will start to e-mail you their stories every time they come up with a new one and pretty soon, you won't have to deal with these other sites, at all.

Good Luck!


 2:01 am on Jul 12, 2002 (gmt 0)

Personally I just as happily accept links as deep as you care to go.

Bandwidth thiefs do not get as good a reception, Why allow a red x when you can use this space as advertisement for your own site(and get the message out at the same time) scroll halfway down
this page [bonch.spb.ru] you will see how I optimize this theft twice :)


 2:14 am on Jul 12, 2002 (gmt 0)

The web is all about linking. While it is indeed bandwidth theft to link to an object such as an image, movie or audio clip, linking to any HTML (or ASP, PHP or similar) page is not only fine but must be encouraged.

You will hear similar arguments against fair use. As you no doubt already know, the fair use laws (part of copyright) allow you to quote or make minor usage of copywritten works without permission or notification. The uninformed will often argue that any copying is bad - however, fair use is not only good but essential in a free world (how else could you write a movie review, for example, or a term paper).

Deep linking is equally essential to the survival of the web as such. Any attempts by those with hidden agendas or those with little intelligence to suppress our ability to deep link must be fought with all of our might. If not, the web will cease to be free and will become a quagmire much like American television.

Richard Lowe


 2:20 am on Jul 15, 2002 (gmt 0)

From the technical side. A webserver could redirect any broswer that did not begin at the home page to the home page.

Seems to me that if it was a big concern webhosts would offer such a service.

Personally, I like any links to my html or text content. I tend to think people who don't like deep links don't understand the value of a new visitor to their website. But if they don't like deep links i won't deep link to them.


 2:43 am on Jul 15, 2002 (gmt 0)

But if they don't like deep links i won't deep link to them

Agreed. And they will be losers, not us. No links, no google. Or link traffic, obviously.

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