Mac Musings

The Open Link Policy

20 August 1999 - Daniel Knight

It's been an unwritten rule of the World Wide Web: you can link to any page out there.

Granted, there are some sites where you need to be a registered user first, even some that require you to pay for access, but for the most part webmasters want you to link to their sites and send traffic their way.

Deep Links

The recent controversy over "deep links" (links that go inside another site, not to their home page) centers on Ticketmaster, a company that sells concert tickets online.

As a service to their visitors, some sites created links to specific pages on Ticketmaster's site, pages for concerts by their favorite artists. You'd think Ticketmaster, who makes money selling tickets, would be pleased.

Not so. They want every customer to come to their site through the home page, see all the ads, then navigate to find the concert they're interested in.

In fact, they stopped Microsoft's CitySearch from deep linking to Ticketmaster. It's quite an accomplishment to get Microsoft to stop anything!

Ticketmaster isn't the only company doing this. Universal Studios doesn't want sites linking to specific movie pages and trailers, either. Again, they want everyone to come in through the front door, the home page.

It's odd behavior. You'd think that links on other sites promoting your concert or your movie would be a good thing, but some people don't think that way.

They feel so strongly about it that deep links to their sites could lead to your being contacted by their lawyers.

Although currently untested in the courts, it may be well legal to ban deep links. Only time and the courts will tell.

Open Links

But most sites don't feel that way. In fact, most are happy for any traffic you can send their way.

They want links, deep or otherwise.

As a webmaster, I don't care which page you visit first. I want you to read the material on my site, explore the site, and maybe even buy something from one of my sponsors.

I have nothing to sell you, no reason to force you to visit an ad-laden home page before you go further into the site.

The same goes for most sites selling things on the Web. They want you to buy their wares, whether you come in through the front door or through a link to a specific product.

That's how they make their money.

For one reason or another, Ticketmaster and a handful of other sites don't see it that way.

In response to that, several Mac webmasters have worked together and written an Open Link Policy. The policy basically states that we allow (and encourage) deep links.

Beyond that, we agree that our deep links will go to the linked site, not stick their material in a frame (which may prevent your bookmarking it), and otherwise respect the integrity of other web sites. (You can read the full Open Link Policy here.)

Links are what turn millions of individual pages into a world wide web of information. The Open Link Policy is our way of saying we want to keep it that way.

Further Reading

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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