TrackBack: Where Blogs Learn Their Places

Phillip D. Long, Syllabus, Feb 17, 2004
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Via elearnspace. This article is a concise and accurate introduction to the concept of the 'trackback' in blogging. As the author (who has obviously done his homework) explains, "A TrackBack ping is blogspeak for a short message sent from one Web server to another." It lets one blog know that another blog is linking to it. The key word here is "send" - pings must be sent and received, which means that you must be using a specific blogging tool for pings to work. Though the language for pings is widely shared, through APIs (application program interfaces), it means that to participate in the system you have to do more than merely make your content available. I have argued elsewhere against the use of trackbacks, suggesting that the same result may be obtained through content aggregation. Why am I opposed to pings? Well, it's a form of push, which means I am in effect letting someone else place content into my system automatically. And history tells us that any push technology will be abused by spammers and worse (it's just this sort of system design, in a different context, of course, that makes Microsoft so vulnerable to viruses). Moveable Type users especially have already had to deal with API spam, and this trend will only increase. So while the benefits described in this article are real, the implementation by today's blogging software is flawed. Anyhow. I am the only person in the world, it seems, opposed to Trackback. So for now, it may be best to go with the flow. But maybe have a back-up plan ready, just in case.
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