Whatever you do, don't link to our website

Would you believe that in 2010, there are still websites that forbid linking to them? If you think it's odd to try and prevent others pointing to pages they've made freely accessible to the public, it's odder still to see who is doing it. For example, The Independent, an ad-supported newspaper whose business requires and promotes exactly this sort of inbound linkage, says that "Third parties must not deep-link to" any part of the website. The Times' recently paywalled website doesn't even want you to send potential customers its way: "linking to the Website is prohibited." Malcolm Coles offers a selection of similarly bizarre and unenforceable terms posted by websites.


  1. I guess the mindset is that in macro-publishing the physical act of accessing content is controlled by the provider. The old guard is uncomfortable with abandoning a (probably false) sense of order consistent with top-down distribution. It’s all good, though. People and ideas wear down over time and fresh examples of both move into their place.

  2. Maybe this is in reference to scraping services (eg. Google News), folks deep-linking to images and such, and other links that use The Independent’s resources without driving users to its portal.

  3. It makes me think of those vast queueing systems that are just rows of fences that you have to snake all the way round even when they’re empty. You could just bypass it all to get straight to your ticket office/roller coaster/kissing booth in a few short strides but when you hop over, the management takes exception. “Nooo! You’re spoiling it! Take this path!” they whinge.

  4. I will not point out the page and paragraph of an article in the newspaper to my friend. I can only present them with the newspaper, advise of the table of contents, and wish them luck.

  5. “The Independent, an ad-supported newspaper”

    Just a quick fact-check: Those don’t technically exist, at least in the cashflow-positive sense of “ad-supported”. Invariably, it’s still the print side of the house that supports all of the online newspapers.

    The last decade was a great experiment in professional news organizations offering non-subscription “ad-supported” content offered online, but ultimately online ad rates never came close to print rates.

    I think the only cashflow positive ad-supported media sites are gadget review blogs and “pure” blogs (those that point out content generated by others) They’re entertaining, and so much cheaper than, say, keeping a team of reporters and photographers on the ground in Kabul or even DC.

  6. Guys, you had the perfect opportunity to defy their obviously-pointless and unenforcable rules. Why didn’t you deep-link to The Times and The Independent when you mentioned them?

  7. I thought there was some disagreement as to what “deep-linking” is exactly. Is it…

    1) linking directly to a page other than a website’s homepage. (i.e. linking to http://www.foobar.com/sample.html rather than http://www.foobar.com)

    2) embedding content from a page on one site into a page on another site. (i.e. embedding http://www.foobar.com/sample.html into http://www.mysite.com/mypage.html)

    Prohibiting 1) does indeed seem foolish, but prohibiting 2) strikes me as quite reasonable.

    1. Yes…doesn’t this actually have to do specifically with discouraging the linking of images and files that (when added up) puts an additional load and cost on one’s server?

  8. To me, this is the publishing world’s equivalent of a woman saying, “Stop looking at my breasts” while wearing a bikini.

  9. Ye I don’t think you understand what deeplinking is.

    It’s essentially when you embed content from another site on your own; therefore utilising their server for content you’re displaying (whether credited or not).

    Point is they don’t want other people making money from their content when there’s a chance they may see no return.

    Simply directing somebody to a link is just linking, not deeplinking.

    1. You are thinking of hotlinking.

      Deeplinking is linking to a page or other content that would normally only be accessible by navigating page after page of an ad-laden website. The term was created as a subtle distinction after the guardians of old media were told that expressing moral outrage over links on the web was just plain silly. As you can see, calling it something else has fixed the problem entirely.

  10. Hard to believe there are site operators out there that are still so stupid. Do they still use flash tags?

    Now, if they said something along the lines of
    “you are welcome to link to our pages but you should be aware that pages come and go as circumstances require and this means that you might well fail to find what you expect. We suggest linking to our home page instead”
    at least they wouldn’t appear quite so silly. Mean, perhaps, but not so silly.

  11. Let’s be completely realistic about this: The Fringe Festival is a logistical disaster. Has anyone ever been able to decipher what happens where and with who and why? Unless you know who is performing, and thus know when things happen, good luck casually exploring Fringe. I doubt any tech solution can solve that mess. Blech.

  12. I can’t believe that whomever is still hanging on to these arcane concepts actually hold the jobs that they do.

  13. From the Canada.com website:

    “You agree that you will not access, reload or “refresh” pages contained on canada.com Sites, or make any other request to transactional servers, more than once during any three second interval”.

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