Is stopping hotlinking costing you readers?

how to stop image hotlinking

If you’re not familiar with the term, hot-linking refers to linking to images stored on another webpage that the linker doesn’t own/operate, this is a strict no-no of online etiquette. The reason is that by hot-linking, you’re essentially stealing the bandwidth that the original web operator is paying for.

At some point you’ve no doubt visited a website expecting to see a particular image, only to be greeted by an image that said something along the lines of “Hotlinking is not allowed. Please visit to view this image.”

For website operators deciding whether or not to prevent hot-linking would seem like a no-brainer, but depending on your type of website it can have a downside.

If you have a static web page there’s no problem with stopping hot-linking, but if you’re running a blog and providing an RSS feed for your readers preventing hot-linking causes a problem.

The way the prevention works is by checking the site requesting the image. To protect my images I would prevent all sites except from accessing my images.

The problem is that this also block RSS readers such as Google reader, My Yahoo! & Newsgator etc. While you can specify which sites to allow, there are dozens of RSS readers out there, if not more and any not allowed to use your images will be filled with your blocking image only.

Obviously any readers using unspecified readers won’t be subscribed to your feed for long, therein lies the problem.

What to do, what to do.

Do you stop hot-linking? Has this had an effect on your RSS subscribers?