This week we had an opportunity to claim some free advertising space in a somewhat non-traditional way, and I’m going to tell you how we did it.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, hotlinking is when a website other than your own uses images that reside on your servers by linking to them directly. Even if you aren’t concerned about protecting the content, this is still a cause for concern since you give up a little bit of your bandwidth (which you paid for) every time the other website loads that image, without getting anything in return. It’s like if your neighbor powered their toaster by running an extension cord to an outlet in your garage – not much impact on your bill if it happens once, but it sure adds up when they do it over and over every single day. (The general consensus on the Internet is that this is a Bad Thing.)
So, you ask… how do I turn this into the free advertising that you speak of?
The first step, of course, is to design your “ad” in the form of a single, somewhat compact image file. Easy enough. I grabbed our official logo and font, had intern Emily shoot me a couple of ideas for some copy to include, and after a few minutes with an image editor I came up with this:
Of course, you may have some different ideas about the type of images you’d want to use (just run a Google Images search for “hotlinking” and you’ll see what I mean), but since we’re running a business here we decided to keep it classy.
The second and final step is accomplished through a relatively easy tweak to your web server’s .htaccess file, which essentially controls access to your content based on URL and/or IP address. Since I’m not a web developer by trade, I suggest looking up one of the hundreds of articles on how to accomplish this that are floating around the web – I read about how to make the changes here. Of course, remember to make a copy of the .htaccess file BEFORE you make any of the changes so you can restore it if you mess up.
Once you’ve accomplished these steps, visit the offending web site, click the “refresh” button on your browser, and giggle as you admire your handiwork:
And no… I have no idea what that picture of Ghadaffi is doing in an article about the Use of Information Technology in Education.