I’ve heard the many threats of trackbacks and pingbacks dying over the years, going the way of the virtual dinosaur, but I’m terrified to hear from Andraz Tori that Typepad is killing pingback functionality and stating that WordPress might be considering it, removing the joy of getting a notification that someone online is talking about you.
Tori describes the problems and abuses of trackbacks by spammers and SEO idiots, and defends trackbacks.
So, another perfectly good idea is dying because of abuse, lack of innovation and primarily lack of interest. It seems that no one really has vested interest in fixing this technology. Naturally Facebook and Twitter have never really used pingbacks either. The players are more interested in building walled gardens where the information can be more easily controlled and aggregated, on top of that they can then provide better user experience and capture revenue. Along with RSS and Google Reader, pingbacks are another 2000 era technology that is dying.
With the death of Google Reader and other long-standing and worthwhile web technology, this year feels more like a funeral for the social web than a celebration as more and more people embrace the web for their communication and community.
The point Tori makes that this is technology that has never really been properly addressed for abuse and updated for security and authentication is truth.
The entire purpose of the development of the web was sharing and communication.
In their announcement, Typepad states that spam is the main reason they are killing trackbacks, adding that social networking features like sharing, reblogging, and liking has replaced trackbacks. (Note: Trackbacks, pingbacks, and backlinks are basically synonymous.)
Typepad, if you are tired of dealing with trackback spam why not improve authentication and verification as well as spam filtering? It’s throwing out the baby with the bath water.
Trackbacks are invitations to the party. I love getting trackbacks, little notes that someone has mentioned one of my posts on their site. I head over, check them out, comment, and sometimes come away with a new friend.
I don’t do this with Facebook Likes. If you like something, that’s your problem. I have a full life and I’m not interested in what you like or don’t like for the most part. I like what I like. I don’t go to your liked item and take time to comment there, telling them “Johnny sent me.” Likes have lost all their value as they are lazy efforts to give credit to someone for reasons that have little to do with worth. Like away, but your likes won’t influence my likes. Your shares might.
Sharing is fun, but when was the last time you knew something was shared on your site with others? Even reblogging generates trackbacks, telling you someone reblogged your content. Sharing doesn’t send you a note most of the time.
The sharing spreads across too many networks and channels. I often share articles via email with a specific person, skipping all public sharing. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other networks means my shared item is visible to only those following me, not the world, and sometimes a very small part of my social web world. However you share, the odds are likely that I will never know that you cared enough to share my content.
I have long dreamed of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks using trackbacks, making it easier for us to track the conversation across the web. Please, someone help us! The computer and web are supposed to make our life easier, right?
As for the conversation that may or may not follow, sometimes I think we are all a bunch of sharers not talkers. Sharing, like liking, is becoming easy. Trackbacks honor those who take the time to write up something about what you said, about what you shared. It is an expression of respect to show a little more energy and enthusiasm about a subject rather than just clicking “like.”
Look at my post on content theft help and advice. Today, there are 384 comments and 308 trackbacks, yet only 52 “Likes” from WordPress.com fans (this article was published long before likes arrived from Facebook and other sources) which really doesn’t mean much. The trackbacks mean the most to me, citations from those linking to this article when they talked about copyright and plagiarism issues with their readers. These trackbacks tell me that this is an ongoing conversation and need.
These trackbacks tell the story of victims as well as advice givers. Sure, there are links from famous blogs, online magazines, and popular bloggers, the trackbacks from those who found peace and courage in this article give me the faith to keep on blogging. It shows me that I made a difference.
As I go through the list today, I was surprised to find trackbacks from people who are now great friends. I forgot how this single article introduced me to some of the most influential people in my life and on the web today. It’s a walk down memory lane, seven years of tremendous response to a single article.
It is also good for my ego to go through this collection of trackbacks. The positive feedback is amazing, and refreshing after a week of meetings and discussions anti-social web, my voice feeling like one of the few continuing to promote the good in the web of today as well as in the future.
Typepad wants to take that away from me. From all of us.
Many think that WordPress will follow. Will they? If they do, can they promise a better alternative?
I hope WordPress will not give into the spammers. I will be a very vocal voice against ending trackbacks, demanding they be fixed and improved not thrown out. I will send dozens of trackbacks to their announcements complaining from my own pulpit.
Unfortunately, unless they have trackbacks turned on, they may never hear my voice.
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