Ever since search engines started offering searches not just for web pages, but also for images, the occurrences of something called “hotlinking” has risen dramatically.
For some of you who host images on your web site, you might already know what this is. Hotlinking is essentially the act of linking to images on another person’s web site. You can do this linking on a web page or even a post on a bulletin board. For example, let’s say a teenage girl just made her very own first web page on Geocities. Say this girl also likes Will Ferrell. Said girl searches the Internet for pictures of Mr. Ferrell and finds one on erwintang.com. She then directly links the image from her page to my site. So whenever anyone views her web page, my server passes along the image to the browser.
This bandwidth theft, since most web hosting plans are charged by the amount of traffic the server must handle. Web site owners wind up footing the bill for other people’s web pages.
There are many things a web site owner can do to prevent hotlinking. The first is simply to rename the image file, but then you also have to change all the .html files on your own server which refer to that image file. There are also some changes to server config files you can make, but that’s all boring.
The fun thing to do is to switch the existing image file with another image file that the hotlinker never expected. You can put anything in place of the original file. Because of this, you can get that person in lots of trouble but most web site owners are nice.
As an example, take a look at what someone hotlinked to on a bulletin board devoted to the soap opera Passions. Below you’ll see that he used a picture of Will Sasso as Kenny Rogers as his signature. That image resides on my server.
To have some fun, I switched the image to something else, though I could have been way more naughty.
I’ve currently have the old switcheroo going on three sites right now. Usually people see what I’ve done and then take down the link. If they don’t I might just rename the file and that’ll be the end of it. If I’m feeling really bored, I might change the picture to something risque.
Who knew having a web site would be so fun?