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Cloaking Forum

    
Newbie Cloaking Primer
... going for easy, but maybe the most complicated explanation ever
Air




msg:675724
 3:55 am on Nov 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

I have been asked a number of times to explain how cloaking works, most recently in a sticky mail from one of our members. The difference in this request was to make it a beginner's primer. No over the top techniques, just a straight forward, how it all fits together primer. Ok then, here it is.

At it's most basic (and even at it's most sophisticated) there is really no magic in cloaking, coming to terms with that will make it much easier to "get" cloaking. IMO the biggest stumbling block for beginners to understanding cloaking is that they fail to relate it to things they already do everyday with their site, and the way their site works. Making it too much of a mystical excercise is also a stumbling block. Cloaking is simple, it uses simple techniques, and is not over anyone's head, keep saying that to yourself as you read on, and you will see there is nothing to it, and you'll "get it" easily.

Forget about cloaking completely for a minute. Let's just look at how a regular site works.

Let's say your domain name is www.foo.com, and you created a page named page1.html.

When you create this page for your site and have finished it, you know that for others to see it you must upload it to your web hosting space so that others can see it when they enter the URL of that page. The URL for the above example would be www.foo.com/page1.html. Let's dive deeper into the server's set up to understand what really happens when your ISP sets up your web hosting space and you upload a page there for others to see.

Bsically here's what the ISP will do. They take your registered domain name (eg. www.foo.com) and define a host container in the web server's configuration files. Part of this configuration tells the web server where it should look for files for the host www.foo.com. The location where the files for www.foo.com can be found is the real location of the files on the server. This path on a *nix server looks something like this; /home/servers/foo, (on Windows servers it might look like; e:\home\servers\foo).

Next, as part of defining your host (www.foo.com) in the web server's configuration file, the ISP also defines that the root path for your host is /home/servers/foo, then a userid is created for you on the server, and usually, it is set up so that when you log in you are automatically placed in your root directory, i.e. /home/servers/foo

When you FTP to your web site to upload your new page, i.e. page1.html, you are really uploading and saving the page to the directory named foo, which is in a directory named servers, which is in a directory named home, in other words it can be found on the server by following the path /home/servers/foo/page1.html

If you were to create a directory within your web site the exact same principle applies. Assume you create a directory and name it bar, and then upload another page1.html into it, the path to the page would be /home/servers/foo/bar/page1.html, still with me? Good.

Part of the built in function of a web server is to associate these paths to the host name so that it knows where to find the content of a page so that it can be displayed to a browser. Remember we said that the ISP associates a root path; /home/servers/foo to the host www.foo.com in the webserver's configuration file? When you tell someone to visit your page at the URL www.foo.com/page1.html, the web server takes the request and separates the host from the file that is requested, when the host is removed from the URL, what is left over is /page1.html, the webserver then adds this to the root path /home/servers/foo and comes up with /home/servers/foo/page1.html, it now knows where to find the content on the server, it gets this content, and it is shown to the browser or spider requesting it. The browser or spider getting the result of this request has no idea what path the content came from.

Had you given out the URL of www.foo.com/bar/page1.html instead, the same process would produce /bar/page1.html being added to the root path, yielding /home/servers/foo/bar/page1.html and the content to be displayed to the browser would come from that path.

The point is, this is no different than how you store files on your own computer, and when you want to find those files you go to the directory you put them in to find them.

This is why many types of scripts you may have installed have you specify the root path to your web space as part of the installation process. It is the only way the script can know where to find a file it will read from, or write to.

Ok. now let's bring cloaking into the picture, but let's call it selective page serving based on language. Suppose you had three versions of page1.html, each with a different html structure, and written in a different language, each stored in a separate directory;

i.e.
/home/servers/foo/france/page1.html
/home/servers/foo/england/page1.html
/home/servers/foo/dutch/page1.html

The URL you have published is www.foo.com/page1.html

In your root directory page1.html is replaced with a server side script (which just means it is executed on the server, not by the browser/machine requesting the URL) which checks what the language setting is of the browser asking for www.foo.com/page1.html, if the language is English, then it reads /home/servers/foo/england/page1.html and writes to /home/servers/page1.html, the webserver does it's thing and happily returns www.foo.com/page1.html completely oblivious to the fact that a script read the content from /home/servers/foo/england/page1.html and returned it as the content to display.

if the language of the browser requesting the page is Dutch, then it reads /home/servers/foo/dutch/page1.html and writes to /home/servers/page1.html, the webserver does it's thing and happily returns www.foo.com/page1.html completely oblivious to the fact that a script read the content from /home/servers/foo/dutch/page1.html and returned it as the content to display.

This of course could be repeated for French, and as many languages as you might want to selectively serve for, in exactly the same manner. The browser or spider getting the result of this request has no idea what path the content came from.

That is all there is to it. Basic reading and writing, I used language as an example, but obviously IP addresses could be used just as easily in the example if your intention was to serve different content based on the IP address of the requestor.

A little long winded (ok a lot) but hopefully it helps to remove some of the mystery around selectively delivering content.

 

Ove




msg:675725
 6:07 am on Nov 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

WOW!!!!!

Thanks alot AIR

/Ove

littleman




msg:675726
 6:38 am on Nov 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

Air, posts like yours are what make wmw great. Fantastic tutorial!

legster




msg:675727
 1:45 pm on Nov 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

Great post Air! Thanks.

Travoli




msg:675728
 1:57 pm on Nov 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

Excellent post AIR, thanks for taking the time to draft it.

>posts like yours are what make WebmasterWorld great.

I totally agree.

Mike_Mackin




msg:675729
 2:03 pm on Nov 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

>selectively delivering content.
SDC will now replace cloaking as the term used by webmasters worldwide.

Thanks AIR

FreeBee




msg:675730
 2:10 pm on Nov 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

Cloaking 101 - good post Air. Next lesson?

Air




msg:675731
 2:19 pm on Nov 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

>SDC will now replace cloaking as the term used by webmasters worldwide.

Hope so, never did like the term cloaking, it sounds so sinister in relation to web serving, i guess it's the trekkie thing that made it stick.

>Next lesson?

FreeBee, what would you like the next one to be?

kapow




msg:675732
 2:51 pm on Nov 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

Great post Air.

I like 'SDC' too. It is a much more business relevant term. The languages example is a very practical application of SDC. Thanks for suggesting it - I can offer the language idea to international clients now.

Removes the 'Cloak and Dagger' misconception.

FreeBee




msg:675733
 3:00 pm on Nov 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

Sorry, lets correct that quickly, SDC101. ;)

Air, there's a heap of other practical info on the forum, but how about User Agent vs IP delivery etc., maintenance issues, risks of ...(cache/no cache, language translators)...etc.

terrys




msg:675734
 5:13 pm on Nov 26, 2001 (gmt 0)

Nice one, (risks of ...cache/no cache) love to hear some history on this one.

Terry

circuitjump




msg:675735
 3:50 am on Nov 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

Great post AIR. It really makes it easy to undertand. Would you mind if I used your explanation to present to clients?

Air




msg:675736
 12:21 am on Nov 28, 2001 (gmt 0)

>Would you mind if I used your explanation to present to clients?

No, I don't mind you using it, maintaining a reference/link to wmw would be appreciated.

aubnow




msg:675737
 2:24 am on Dec 1, 2001 (gmt 0)

Air - this was so good i even understood it ~ do you have a newbie definition of sdc/cloaking for me and maybe a couple benefits in newbie terms I can use to explain to my coworker/friend - thanks so much -

Air




msg:675738
 3:23 am on Dec 4, 2001 (gmt 0)

Hello aubnow, welcome to WebmasterWorld!

Well in its simplest form, selectively delivering content is just the ability to use some information about the visitor requesting a particular page and then displaying content that maximizes that user's visit. Another user requesting the exact same page might get different content based on the session information carried by that user.

The benefits are mostly flexibility, you aren't stuck designing a particular type of site just to please certain visitors. We've been discussing other uses for SDC, but most often it is used to deliver search engine spiders a version of a page requested that is much more optimized than the version of that same page shown to human visitors, also the idiosynchrasies of each search engine could be targetted (at least when we had lot's of spidering engines to target, there aren't as many now).

It is still often used for optimization because it makes it difficult, if not impossible for people to see your optimized code, some people put lot's of emphasis on this, while other's dismiss it. It's an individual thing really.

Salesmaster II




msg:675739
 2:44 am on Dec 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

<<use some information about the visitor >>

Could one request a little further enlightening?

Apart from "Language", What other more common attributes or information is available from a visitor logging in?
Could you maybe quote a more common type of example for application of each?

littleman




msg:675740
 3:00 am on Dec 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

Welcome Salesmaster_II,
IP address and user_agent are the two most used variables for seo cloaking.

Salesmaster II




msg:675741
 3:05 am on Dec 12, 2001 (gmt 0)

Looks like you did an excellent talk about this before over here: [webmasterworld.com...]

Brett_Tabke




msg:675742
 2:12 am on Jun 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

*burp* (not bad manners, just good soda pop)

It is just amazing how well this thread holds up after 3 years!

Great post Air!

EliteWeb




msg:675743
 7:29 am on Jun 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

Wow, great explanation of cloaking and how servers handle files. Thanks for digging that up, written like it was written yesterday :)

bluelook




msg:675744
 8:50 am on Jun 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

Its not just diamonds that last forever.
We have a lot of articles here that are still true after several years.

Ill drop an idea: how about writing an ebook with the best articles, and give it to subscription members :)?

What do you think? Maybe Ill post this idea in another forum too.

caine




msg:675745
 9:03 am on Jun 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

still an excellant 1,2,3 point by point solution on clocking.

is AIR still doing his own software?

gniland




msg:675746
 1:32 pm on Jun 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

His website says that it is not currently available for sale. Anyone interested in more information can check out the link in his user profile.

Brett_Tabke




msg:675747
 7:16 pm on Jun 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

Continued over here:
[webmasterworld.com...]

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