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Fight Against Trackback Death

blogging newsI’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.

Visual example of how trackbacks work with blogs - Lorelle VanFossen.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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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

20 Comments

  1. Minbani
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Another well written and informative article…thank you :-)

    I think one of the big reasons why trackbacks aren’t treated with due respect is that they aren’t well understood by many people and a lot of bloggers simply haven’t learned much about them. I read a lot but I haven’t come across much information about their importance or usefulness. What do others think?

  2. Posted March 27, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    “Trackbacks” are already dead tech. They’ve been dead for years. Nobody ever uses them. I have doubts that you’ve ever actually received a real one.

    “Pingbacks” are technically different, and yes you probably get them all the time. I don’t think they’re going anywhere soon.

    • Posted March 27, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      So what’s the difference? LOL!

      For me, they are synonymous as they both technically do the same thing, generate a comment citation from another site. Trackback is a kinder and gentler word than pingback, which sounds like what happened when you try to shoot a rubberband from your teeth braces across the room and it fails.

    • wpbeginner
      Posted March 28, 2013 at 3:23 am | Permalink

      Agreed with Otto there.

      - Trackbacks are manual whereas Pingbacks are automatic (different communication technology).

      - Pingbacks do not send any content. In trackbacks an excerpt of the content is sent.

      You can also send a trackback without ever linking to the original article (weird…). So spammers can simply send trackbacks to other sites in hopes of getting a backlink from their comments section (yes I know it’s a nofollow backlink), but it still has some indirect benefits.

      It’s sort of like the dumb youtube video response feature that I absolutely hate. People always try to piggy back off popular channels because they want to show up in the “related videos” thing even when their video is not even related.

    • Posted March 28, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the clarity, Syed. Pingbacks are not found at the bottom of my posts. Trackbacks, which are generated automatically, do. Confused as ever. :D LOL!

      While the technology may be different, the results are basically the same. It is the content with the link that brings reward here, no matter what it is called.

      Someday we will find a better way to punish spammers, or reward them for not spamming, as should be the way with all evil doers.

    • Posted April 4, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      WordPress treats both Trackbacks and Pingbacks the same, more or less. What you’re seeing in your posts are actually pingbacks, not trackbacks. Again, you’ve probably never received a real “trackback” (this is a technical term), although you may have called them that because WP makes little obvious user distinction for them.

  3. Posted March 27, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I have to admit that I will not grieve to see trackbacks disappear in their current form. It has become a way for spammers to try and get a free link. The majority of them never actually exist.

    If there was a way to authenticate or filter them like Akismet does with comments then it could become useful again until then the spammers have won.

  4. Posted March 27, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    I disabled trackbacks years ago. Remember when TechCrunch had trackbacks? ;-)

  5. Papizilla
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    I look at every trackback. Every single one takes me to a spam site. 100′s of them. I have yet to have a “real” trackback. Pingbacks though, I get a lot, and I check them as well. Almost all of them are from real non spam sites. If they can filter trackbacks like Akismet does(I agree with the person above) then I would be all for them. Actually Akismet has always grabbed my trackbacks and kept them in the spam folder.

    • Posted March 27, 2013 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      That’s sad that every trackback you get is spam. You didn’t include your website in your comment, so I can’t check it out and look for quality content to link to. You do know that you can turn trackbacks off if you do not want them. Akismet is amazing. I’d give up blogging if it weren’t for that treasure. I’d be defeated by spam in all forms. Akismet picks up the majority of my spam, trackbacks and comments.

  6. Papizilla
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    The Ranting Papizilla is my little slice of the ‘net. I would turn them off, but what if someone that wasn’t a spammer decided to show me love? It could happen, so I continue to check each one out and see if it has.

    • Posted March 28, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      Probably the reason why you are not getting trackbacks from articles linking to yous is that the majority of your published content is not original. In fact, you are generating massive trackbacks to other people, bringing them, hopefully, to your site to check out your brilliance. Reblogging generates trackbacks. A majority of content that belongs to someone else encourages others to blog about what you reblog, not about you.

      Some great discoveries, which is fine. There is nothing wrong with a site being mostly shared and reblogged content, highlighting imagination and creativity in inspired sharing. Such sites can garner huge fan clubs if the content stays consistent and services a specific population interest. It’s like a referral service. However, content that gets linked to is usually original and inspired in its own way. Something to consider, not a condemnation.

  7. Posted March 30, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    @Lorelle – I assume you have analytics? You should be able to use your analytics to see what sites are referring you traffic; that’s what I use.

    • Posted March 31, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      That’s one way, but not as emotionally fulfilling as a trackback. :D

    • Posted March 31, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      @Lorelle,

      Well, yes. We must not ignore that! ;-)

  8. Posted April 2, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I agree that trackbacks should stay, but that’s in a world where all things are equal and there aren’t any spammers. Sadly, unless someone wants to put up the time/money to figure out how to authenticate them, I can’t see any reason why they’ll stay around. Even WordPress refers to trackbacks as a way to ping sites running on legacy blog systems. But it is nice to see that someone else has written about your content. Only problem is, all the ones I see are spam.

    • Posted April 4, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      That’s why I’m calling out for an authentication process. It exists. Why isn’t it being used?

  9. Posted April 7, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Trackback Valdiator works great at blocking spam trackbacks, even four years after development on it stopped.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. Trackbacks died last night…

    So I disabled trackbacks last night. Somewhat sad about it, but it seems to be all the rage. TypePad announced plans to disable them. WordPress may be soon to follow.I’ve never been a fan of the protocol and last night I found a great many voices–som…

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