InfoWorld and Deep Linking
Thursday, August 12, 1999 by Dave Winer.
"Like most online publications, InfoWorld Electric has a policy regarding links. When we refer to a link, we mean a hypertext link, where you post the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) of some content on our site to your site. This can be simply including the link in text form or attaching a URL to one of our logos for the reader to click on.
"To link to an article on InfoWorld Electric, send an e-mail request to Meera Srinivas with the URL of the InfoWorld content you want to link to. If your request is approved, we will ask you to confirm back to us the exact URL of the place on your site where we can find the link."
After reading this page, I posted this notice: "We have been linking to InfoWorld.Com since the inception of Scripting News. We're going to keep doing it until we hear otherwise from InfoWorld. I assume their linking policy is an old not-updated page explaining an old not-enforced policy. However, if they object, we will stop linking to them in the future."
I received an email from an InfoWorld insider, a friend, who said that the policy is serious. My correspondent asked not to be identified, and I'm respecting that.
"Dave, there's a strong feeling here that allowing other sites to link to us would draw people away from our home page."
Do they have facts to back up that belief? Do they know for a fact that if I link to an InfoWorld story that there will be fewer reads of their home page?
Would the readers of my site read the InfoWorld piece if I didn't link to it? I don't know, do they?
If they read an article a second time because I link to it, does that harm InfoWorld? How does that deprive them of a view of their home page?
And why are views of their home page so important? Isn't there a link to the home page on every article? (There is.)
And finally does InfoWorld require that search engines get permission before linking to an InfoWorld article? (I checked with a few search engines, they link to InfoWorld, completely disregarding their policy.)
Isn't it ironic that the rest of the web is looking for ever-more-creative ways to get other sites to link to them, and a supposed leader in the web has a policy that turns away linkers?
Every week InfoWorld runs a couple of stories that I think my readers should see. Occasionally I link to them because they mention my product or some cause I support. But the links always come with an implicit endorsement: "Read this because I think you will find it interesting."
If InfoWorld's management pauses to think about this seriously,I think they will realize that the web makes them stronger, allows their point of view to be more widely disseminated. Linking builds the value of their brand, and thereby builds value for their advertisers.
Further, I believe this policy puts InfoWorld at a competitive disadvantage with publications that don't have such a policy. And probably even more serious, such a policy puts them at odds with the entire web, which is something I don't think they can afford to do.
I read InfoWorld, and I understand that their readers care about the web. You can see it in the stories they write. And in this area, InfoWorld, as a leader in the application of technology, is setting a bad example. The web is uncontrollable in this way. I won't apply for permission to link, instead I will simply stop reading them. Given that choice, would you choose to have an overly restricted linking policy or have an open one?
Bottom-line, could the web get by without InfoWorld? Yes. Could InfoWorld exist without support from the web? I think not.
Send me email, I'll post them on http://news.userland.com/.
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