The Deep Linking Clampdown…Oh, the Humanity!

 *****Editor’s update: Rand has pointed out that I misread the bit about NPR. See below for amendment. *****

Did you ever think that you’d need permission in order to deep link to a site? And for those of you who don’t know, deep linking is the practice of linking to a page on a site other than the home page. It’s what we’re basically supposed to do, to have the most relevant links for our readers.

Apparently this is wreaking absolute havoc with several online publications. The Dallas Morning News has claimed that this practice has contributed to their quick downward spiral into the bowels of hell by “violating copyrights, depriving them of ad dollars, redirecting traffic, and generally confusing Web surfers.” That’s freaking Texas for you. They should stick to trying to find better bands than Coldplay to appear on Austin City Limits. (Obviously I cannot link to their terms of service so that you sweet readers could check this out since I don’t want to have a ten gallon cowboy hat of whoop-arse unloaded on me…)

The paragraph about NPR disallowing deep linking has been removed. This was an error on my part, which was kindly pointed out by Rand. I was going to just strike it through so that everyone could point and laugh at me, but didn’t want to further my badmouthing of them, since it turns out that they actually changed their policy to ALLOW deep linking. Amazing how I get through life…

As someone who is highly concerned about the limitations continually being placed on freedom of speech, this type of thing seriously concerns me. Will I not be able to link to a relevant page on a web site because my doing so may confuse someone? I mean I understand that making threats or shouting bigoted remarks in a coffee house isn’t something that you really should be doing, but CONFUSING SOMEONE ON THE WEB? I confuse people on a daily basis, online and offline. Confusion is good for the soul. It’s also a good New Order song.

Many people don’t take freedom of speech as seriously as they should, especially Americans in their comfort zone. If our online freedoms continue to be restricted in truly ridiculous ways such as not being allowed to link to a page that is relevant to what you’re talking about, what’s next? Will you not be able to use certain big words because most people won’t immediately know their definition? Will you be prevented from having an orange background because lots of people don’t like the color orange? Will Lisa have to stop all the Viking cursing on this blog? Will chocolate companies forbid Judith to mention their truffles? Will Adam Ant sue me for saying that I’m off him after seeing him cry in the “Wonderful” video? We’re all heading straight for hell you know.

Free speech isn’t the only issue with this either. Think about this for a minute (yes, just a minute): will Google be allowed to list results other than the home page of a publication that has these policies? Those are links, right? If the home page isn’t relevant for a certain term, then they’re gonna get screwed aren’t they? If you have a large site and you rank for 10,000 long tailed phrases that are relevant to all of your pages, if Google gets skittish and thinks they might get sued for violating your terms of service, because we all know how they love the terms of service, they could technically pull all results for your pages and your number of ranking phrases falls to 10. Google is currently still showing the dreaded deep links (their site links) for Dallas Morning News, by the way…so are they violating the terms of service here? I can’t be bothered to actually READ their terms of service to find out, honestly. Maybe they haven’t changed them, or maybe Google’s money and power was enough to get them to sign the permission slip. (Editor’s note: parts of this were amended after an error on my part.)

By turning off deep linking, you can decrease the overall link popularity of your site, too. Isn’t this shooting yourself in the foot? What about pissing off the people who don’t want to go and search for a story from the home page? If your search functionality sucks a duck’s arse on the site, you’re going to be seriously irritating these people. And really, if this is mostly about money, why can’t these people properly monetize the entire site and not just their home page?

As you can see, this situation is as fraught with peril as a trip to buy toilet paper and milk right before it snows in the South. We tend to take freedom of speech quite lightly, which is unfortunate. When you think about the greater implications of the continued clampdown on our online freedom, maybe you’ll realize just how critical it is to stay on top of issues such as this one and we won’t have anyone sporting a “Kill Your Deep Links” t-shirt in the checkout line at Wal-Mart.

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16 Responses to “The Deep Linking Clampdown…Oh, the Humanity!”

  1. randfish says:

    Julie – I think you might have misread the article. “even National Public Radio’s website now prohibits deep linking without permission”

    NPR actually is now allowing deep linking – that was the change to their terms. :)

  2. C’mon, there’s no need to use those deep linky things when you can just tell people how to find the content in a much less confusing way:

    1) Click the internet to open it.
    2) In the space at the top of the internet, type and press the “Return” key on your keyboard.
    3) Click on the arrow at the bottom of the line that runs down the right side of the internet (the geeks call it a “scroll bar”) until you see some blue underlined text on the left side of the internet that says “Finance”.
    4) Click the word Finance.
    5) Find the headline “ Gets Rich Suing Deep Linkers” and click it. (If it’s not there anymore, send me an email and I’ll tell you how to find it in the archives).

    Seriously though, prohibiting deep linking is prima facie evidence of having no clue about what the web is about.

  3. Julie Joyce says:

    Ah yes Rand, you are correct…does this mean that I owe Garrison an apology? So did they previously disallow it?

    I’ll amend the post, and good catch. In my zeal to get huffy about something I targeted the wrong people. Is it still ok to moan about the Dallas paper?

  4. Julie Joyce says:

    Post has been amended. Please disregard anything else that I ever write on this blog. If anyone is interested in being my fact-checker, send me your resume posthaste.

  5. randfish says:

    Don’t be so hard on yourself Julie! I make mistakes like this all the time and so does everyone who blogs. At least we make corrections, unlike the mainstream media who just lets wrong material sit out there. :)

    I still think it’s a good subject.

  6. Julie Joyce says:

    You’re right…but I should have read it more carefully before blasting them. Just think, I almost didn’t listen to The Splendid Table this weekend.

    Thanks for pointing it out so nicely though. You set a class example sir.

  7. Frogger says:

    “Link Bait…All the Rage”…Tommorrows Title.


    Good article though I was captivated.

  8. Jane says:

    The thing I love about blogs and bloggers is that we can make errors and amend our posts honestly. I’m a big fan of the massive, multi-paragraph strike-through :P

    Contrast this with “old media”, who’ll post a Times New Roman size eight retraction in the middle of the Classifieds two weeks after they report something incorrectly!

    Re: disallowing deep links… holy crap. Are they insane? Take this offline and it’s like saying that you can’t cite a page within a text, only the text itself.

    On second thoughts, this would have made university much easier.

  9. Matt Davies says:

    Great post Julie, had me laughing on a Wednesday morning which is no small achievement (still too far from the weekend!).

    I have to ask though, otherwise it’ll irritate me all day… you do know the original article is 5 and a half years old, right?

  10. Julie Joyce says:

    I do like a strikethrough…and almost did that but it didn’t seem to be enough to rectify the comments I’d made.

    And yes Matt I did see the date, but as I mentioned in the post I wasn’t about to be arsed enough to go and check things out. I just assumed that they were about as forward thinking as the President they’ve unleashed upon us.

  11. Aaaand this is definitely a discussion I’d like to be a part of, but alas it’s all been resolved ;o)

    No really, I haven’t got a clue, but Julie – made me laugh on a Wednesday morning too…

    Although, I could swing into a conversation on its own straight off this comment “about as forward thinking as the President they’ve unleashed upon us”… but I won’t…

  12. Julie Joyce says:

    Anita! I should probably keep my political opinions to myself but it’s all done with great humour, since maintaining a sense of humour is the only way that I can continue to exist.

    I’ve learned a great lesson from this though…rushing and multitasking really can blindside you. I’m trying to slow down today, a bit at least. However, I do think that the issue itself, of a potential clampdown on deep linking on more sites, is a very valid one. Endangering how we do business online is something that we need to think about carefully.

    I also love the point that Jane brought up…when we blog, we do make mistakes and we have the power to admit them and make things right again. That’s actually quite nice, isn’t it? Because people certainly aren’t going to stop making mistakes any time soon…

  13. Matt says:

    The really silly thing about the “no deep linking” policy is that deep linking can be blocked with a tiny bit of programming. Don’t complain about people wandering into your house when you leave all the windows and doors wide open!

    The only exception being when the referring site uses frames or other techniques so as to make it unclear what site you are looking at.

  14. Julie Joyce says:

    Good point Matt, but isn’t that typical? Poor programming skills create ridiculous corporate policies.

    I’m feeling ultra-left wing today so I’ll stop the commenting now before I go into a rant about corporate America.

  15. Elise says:

    It’s a pretty standard practice in large government and corporate environments, from an information assurance perspective, to implement security controls on web-enabled content and links….and not really too hard to do, actually. Meaning, if they don’t want deep links, there’s plenty of ways to not accept them. For example, the US DoD simply assumes the Chinese Government is executing a state-sponsored “deep link, copy, muck stuff up and destroy” campaign, and has corralled the Beijing blog-elite to contribute from their homes. So – they take action to stop it….I haven’t seen any language on that politely asks all world governments and businesses to ask for permission before deep-linking to the latest nuclear submarine construction plans.

  16. sajal says:

    hmm… interesting point.. perhaps bloggers should take a stand and not link to these sites at all.
    Almost all news content from big sites are plagiarized by sploggers.. why not link to them instead?

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