Web of Trackbacks


Trackbacks were developed as a way to connect blogs and promote communication. Your blog sends a trackback to my blog. My readers see the link to your blog on one of my posts that interests them. They might be interested in your opinion on whatever it was that I was writing about, so they can click through and read your blog. The end result is that more people are exposed to more blogs, and hopefully more information and more points of view. Trackbacks help make the web a web.

Unfortunately, trackbacks are easily faked, and indeed are currently being used to try to stuff spam into blog comments. So pingbacks were developed, to try to fix many of the problems with trackbacks. Pingbacks require a reciprocal link. That is, a site sending a pingback must contain a link to the ping destination. The ping recipient will connect to the ping originator and verify that this link is present.

Recently on the WordPress hackers mailing list, someone proposed a plugin that introduced trackback verification, to which Phil retorted that it “turns trackbacks into pingbacks”.

I get a lot of trackbacks and pingbacks, mostly from bloggers writing about my plugins. So far, every trackback I’ve received has originated from a post that included a link to me. So the proposed plugin didn’t sound all that unreasonable to me. I didn’t expect that it would change anything for me, or my blog, in any substantial way.

But just this afternoon I received a trackback to a post of mine. It landed in my moderation queue, because the originating blog has never sent a trackback or pingback before. Being the diligent blog owner, I clicked through from my moderation queue to see who had linked to me, and why.

I was delighted with the post that I found, and wasted no small amount of time playing the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game I found linked there. But nowhere in the post was any mention of me, my blog, or my post. The ping originator had read my post about the HHGTTG movie, and decided that I would like to know about the game. Rather than send me an email, s/he sent me a trackback. A perfectly reasonable – and useful – application of trackbacks!

And here we find the value of non-reciprocal trackbacks. I found a cool link; and was intrigued enough to peruse the rest of the site – something I don’t often do when following links that lead to posts about my plugins, for some reason. I found a nice howto for pretty permalinks in WordPress on IIS, something I likely never would have found!

I need to remember to do this. I’ve been using my blog for almost two years now, and I’ve not yet used trackbacks in this way.

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