Free Technology for Teachers: What is Hotlinking?
Free Technology for Teachers: What is Hotlinking?

This morning I had a chat with a colleague who was having a little issue with his website not displaying the images that he was inserting into blog posts. The problem was that he was trying to insert images via URL instead of uploading images to host on his blog. In short, he was hotlinking images. Explaining that process to him reminded me of the following information that I wrote for a course about blogging that I used to teach.  

What is hotlinking?


Why you and your students should avoid hotlinking.
Hotlinking itself isn't bad if you're only linking to images that you own and control online. For example, let's say that you have a Flickr account to which you upload dozens of pictures that you took. You could use the embed code or the link that Flickr provides to post your images in your blog post.

When hotlinking causes trouble is when you link to another person's image hosted in their account or on their servers. Even if the image is in the public domain you probably don't want to hotlink to it. In fact some services will block attempts at hotlinking. They block hotlinking because when you hotlink you're using more of their bandwidth than if you simply downloaded the image to your computer then uploaded it to your blog.

The biggest concern about hotlinking is not knowing exactly who or what you're linking to. It is possible that the image you linked to and the image displayed could be changed without warning. It's also possible that the link a student inserts to hotlink links back to site or host laden with malware that could then rain down havoc on your blog.

Click image for full size.

Best practices for using images in blog posts.
  1. Always try to use images that you own and upload to your blog. 
  2. If you don't own a suitable image then look for images in the public domain. Pixabay and Unsplash are good places to look for images that are either in the public domain. Download the image and upload to your blog. 
  3. If you cannot find a suitable image in the public domain then look for images that have Creative Commons licenses attached to them. The Creative Commons Chrome extension makes that fairly easy to do (here's my video about how it works). Download the image, upload it to your blog, give proper attribution to the owner of the image. 
  4. If items 1, 2, and 3 above didn't provide you with a suitable image then you can attempt to use an image under Fair Use guidelines. Fair Use is a murky water so Fair Use should be your last resort. If 1, 2, and 3 failed to produce a suitable image, repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 until you find a suitable image.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Annotated screenshots created by Richard Byrne.


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