lucy24 - 9:12 pm on Jul 21, 2013 (gmt 0)
One solution may be to redirect the image to a message that says, "you're seeing this because your referrer is switched off".
I do this in some directories :) But the redirect just leads to a generic "sorry" page-- the same one I put up in the rare case where a page requires either a cookie or some specific referrer. Since the server hasn't been given any special instructions about the page (html extension) the net effect is that ordinary in-page image requests will get a blank space, as if the image file didn't exist. Only direct requests (type-ins, bookmarks, some e-mail) will end up on the "Sorry" page. I can tell how rare they are because hardly any requests are accompanied by requests for the page's freestanding CSS file.
If you want to go further, put up a link that leads to a cookie which will make the images visible again.
If you've chosen to block referers, are you likely to let the site set a cookie? I tend to think of referer blocking, like UA obfuscation and proxy connections, as even further along the privacy scale.
I've checked in both new and old browsers, I don't see any difference.
Google thinks Camino is an old browser, probably thanks to the "like Firefox 3.6" in the UA string, so I get the old-style image search with the full page along the side. Other browsers get the new-style search.
On my personal site, image requests with "blank.html" as referer are rewritten to an administrative gif set to expire immediately. That means the server doesn't have to send the whole 10-100K image file-- but if the user does ask to view the image in isolation, the browser will display the real thing.
There's one aspect of traffic loss I haven't yet seen answered. It may be unanswerable. When people come to your site via an old-style image search, do they stick around? Visit more pages, click on ads? If all they ever did was look at the one picture, you haven't lost anything. You may even have gained, because the server is doing less work for the same result.
it's safe to use hotlink image protection as it is a common practice in protecting images. Google ignores it and shows a copy of the image anyway
I don't understand this line. Server-based hotlink protection doesn't work on the honor system like robots.txt; it's absolute. Come in with the wrong referer, and all you'll get is the blaring "No Hotlinks" image. If your hotlink routine exempts referer-less requests, then search engines have no way of knowing that you block hotlinks.