I was really surprised to find out how much of my bandwidth was being stolen. Yes – stolen.
When you hot-link to an image on someone else’s site you are, in effect, stealing their bandwidth.
Last month I had 632 MB of bandwidth stolen from just one server.
Wikipedia defines Hot-Linking as:
Inline linking (also known as hotlinking, leeching, piggy-backing, direct linking, offsite image grabs and bandwidth theft) is the use of a linked object, often an image, from one site into a web page belonging to a second site. The second site is said to have an inline link to the site where the object is located.
Now Hot-Linking in and of itself isn’t always bad. If you link to an image on one of my sites and have a conversation on your site about the image, or at least my initial post about the image, and you give me a trackback, then I consider that fair use – I am getting something in return for you using my image. I’m getting potential traffic to my site. That is a lot different then just stealing data (and bandwidth) from my site.
But if you just re-purpose my image for you own needs you are stealing my bandwidth (not to mention the image).
So what to do about it?
.htaccess. This is a “magic file” that is very powerful – and it can be used to a) prevent hot-linking completely, or b) replace the “stolen” image with one of your choice.
I implemented b).
So if someone hotlinks to any image on my site, the actual image that is displayed on their site is:
This is pretty easy to implement, and you can read more about it here.