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Computer Blog - thebroadroom.net: Antihotlinking .htaccess doesn't seem to work with Norton Internet Security

Disclaimer: all of the following is purely from personal experience. TheBroadroom.Net urges you to use your own instincts, common sense, and willingness to take risks when applying any of the information below.

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Antihotlinking .htaccess doesn't seem to work with Norton Internet Security
posted by Colleen Shirazi, Thursday, March 02, 2006 at 4:49 PM (Pacific)

Wondering why your recent stats show increasing traffic without a corresponding increase in site money?

I noticed this over the past few months as a low-level increase (see my previous post, More on hotlinking, May 2005). Apparently putting up your standard .htaccess file (examples of which are all over the Net, though some versions are better than others) permits users running Norton Internet Security to view the hotlinked images.

Back when I put up my original .htaccess file I was not running Norton Internet Security. To me (and anyone else not running it from what I can tell) the images were blocked.

But lately, as I say, I noticed my traffic increasing without a corresponding rise in my pay-per-click money.

I went back and inspected a hotlinked image and was shocked to see it, right in my face. The same hotlinked image did not display in a computer using PC-Cillin.

I went through two days of trying to find a way of using .htaccess to completely block my hotlinked images. It became rather apparent to me that my increase in traffic likely reflected a simple increase in people running Norton Internet Security.

After trying out fifty different flavors of .htaccess hotlink blocking code, and having none of them block images viewed by Norton Internet Security computers without blocking at least some of the images linked to from my own site...I got desperate to the point of posting a question about it on a webmasters forum (Webmasterworld.com, it's a good one).

I got a rather quick answer with some code...there is no way to use traditional .htaccess to block all images. If you remove the line of code that allows Norton users to view hotlinked images, you will damage your own site.

I wasn't too happy with this...because more and more people seem to be using NIS? Any point in blocking images only for the folks not using it?

Here is what I decided to do:

I came up with a solution of sorts although it doesn't involve blocking the images (other than using the complete .htaccess code you gave me).

For me, it's less of a problem with bandwidth...even though it's using a lot of mine, it's not endangering my bandwidth limit. It's more a matter of my competitors using my images to draw traffic to their own sites. I suppose if they were more sophisticated, they would download a copy of the image and host it themselves, but they're not...which is also why they wouldn't take my image down even if they had some complaints about it.

What I did was use an ad for my site as the alternative image. It's a nice ad...got "Image hosted by," my logo, branding, name of the site and URL written nicely on it.

If the .htaccess works and redirects to this image, it's a "free ad" for my site with me "paying" only the bandwidth.

If the .htaccess fails and the hotlinked image starts showing up in my site stats, I will go back and rename the original image. It's more work on my part but so what?--I put up my ad in place of the hotlinked image.

What I'm getting, is a whole lot of free advertising for my site.

It's less work than buying adspace on myspace.com and as long as your bandwidth holds out, it's free. (Since it's generally my competitors doing the hotlinking, it's targeted advertising on top of it all).

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