As part of trying to improve this site when it went from being a static html site to a WordPress based site, I made sure that links to the old stories would not break by setting a lot of 301 redirects. For those of you who are not into learning all about hosting, a 301 redirect is shorthand for making sure that web requests for the old html page are seamlessly sent on to the new page location when they arrive at the site. Redirect codes can specify that the move is permanent, as it was here, or temporary. If you do have an interest in learning out redirects you can, here.
To make sure that the redirects worked correctly, I’ve been checking the logs for the site, in particular the 404 logs. The code, 404, refers to error given if a requested web page is unavailable. To my surprise, I found that many of the 404 errors related not to the stories on the site, but to the images. Other websites had linked to images, or “Hot-Linked” them. Rather than asking for permission to use one of the site images, the other site just links to one of the images so that when a user on the other site requests a page that features images from this site, the image loads from my site. You can immediately see the problem here. Bandwidth that I pay for is being used by someone else to provide content, my images, to that person’s site. To add insult to injury, I found by reviewing some of the links that the sites using the images where using them to question or ridicule the Bible. Now don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their own opinion as to the veracity of the Bible, but they are not entitled to use my bandwidth and this site’s pictures to do it.
Hot-linking is not a new phenomena. Since the start of the web, some sites have used content at other sites. So webmasters have had plenty of time to figure out how to deal with it. One of the best solutions is to block access to image files from any other website except this one. That is the approach that I adopted. A few lines in the .htaccess file that controls all access to the site now blocks all these image requests. I’ll be checking the server logs for 404 errors, and looking at the bandwidth to see how much of a change it makes. In the meantime, please enjoy the stories, and if you would like to use an image, please let me know.