News from the front lines

frontline news

This just in...

Since I posted my article on bandwidth stealing, there have been some interesting developments.

bandwidth per day for past five days

Significantly, the sucking away of my bandwidth has slowed considerably (see below). For example, yesterday's bandwidth use was less than half what it was before I took countermeasures.

Something else remarkable and totally unexpected has also happened. My "gotcha page" — which people only see if they try to link directly to an image by typing the URL in their browser — has shot to the top of the list as the most frequently accessed page on my site. Since that page was added three days ago, it has been viewed almost 900 times! What I surmise is happening is that people see the missing-image icon on a page and try to investigate by following the URL directly. I imagine that many of the people doing that checking are the ones who have used direct links to my images on their web pages and forum articles and are surprised that the link no longer works.

This direct linking, resulting in bandwidth "theft," is no small problem. This one image alone accounts for 29% of my total bandwidth so far this month. Images in general account for about 80% of all bandwidth used by my site.

I've also been interested in the reactions by some of my friends. One, for example, advised me to involve higher authorities: "You could also complain to abuse@ the forum." Another offered the following advice: "I would have changed the photo Skunkwerks was using for his personal icon to a message that said: I AM AN A _ _ _ _ _ _" [expletive deleted]. Others offered even more colorful or perverse suggestions. I also received a suggestion that "your no-img-links page could be populated with the images people have stolen. Then you could say, 'does one of these look familiar, you little creep?'"

It would disingenuous to suggest that taking revenge doesn't have a certain immediate appeal. It does. But you always have to keep the real objective in mind and consider unintended consequences.

I want people to visit my site. The fact that people have made a direct link to one of my images means they have somehow made it to my site. There's no long-range benefit to me in pissing-off visitors or potential visitors. The real goal is to stop the draining of my bandwidth, not stop visitors. Some of the "stealing" may be malicious, but some of it is probably innocent; unless you host a site of your own you may never think about the costs involved in making things show up in your browser. I'd rather err on the side of presumption of innocence.

The fact is that about 30% of the traffic to my site comes from referrals by 20 different search engines (so far this month). Topping the list is Yahoo (40% of search-engine referrals) followed by Google image search (36%). So, it's pretty clear that my site offers something that people want. I'd like to encourage that. I don't want to be like so many celebrities who hire an agent and a phalanx of publicists to make them famous but who are rude and resentful when people approach them on the street or restaurants.

Nor does my objection to "stealing" my bandwidth have a moral or ethical basis: stealing is wrong. Some of the pictures on my site, in fact, have been taken from other websites, and some are explicitly or implicitly copyrighted, so I am actually guilty of another kind of theft myself — theft of intellectual property. And I freely admit I haven't been as consistent or as conscientious as I should be and want to be about giving credit where credit is due. But when I use a picture from another site, I at least make a copy of it and serve up the image from my own site, rather than link to the other site and "steal" their bandwidth.