We recently had a snafu that resulted when someone unwittingly posted a picture of tubgirl in a thread and was banned for it; here I would like to explain the dangers of hotlinking so that this does not happen again.
I would like to start off by explaining in large, bold, capital letters:
YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE IMAGES THAT YOU POST.
If you post a hotlinked image and it goes bad, the fact that it wasn't your intention is only so much of an excuse; your negligence is still responsible for scarring others for life.
What is a hotlinked image?
You see a picture somewhere on the interwebz, you copy the link to the image, and post it verbatim on 2+2. That is hotlinking.
Why is that bad?
When a web server receives a request to load a page, or image, or anything, one of the pieces of information it receives (like "what file are you trying to access on their server", "what browser are you using", etc.) is "did this request come from a link from another page" and, if so, "what page linked to the file they're trying to access"?
Now, if the web server detects that another page linked to the image you want to post, they can do pretty much anything they want with that info, but common responses are:
- Nothing; display the picture normally (happens 99% of the time)
- Don't display it at all
- Redirect the user to a different file, typically a standard "hotlinking is bad!" picture
The reason sites sometimes do #2 and #3 is that when you hotlink an image in a thread, everyone who views the thread has to go to that other website to download the photo you linked to. As a result, when thousands of people are downloading the same picture, that can take a toll on a server's bandwidth limits; thus, server admins do not like when people hotlink images on their site, and can sometimes get malicious about it. Thus, the "hotlinking is bad!" picture in the third option can sometimes be some completely disgusting picture rather than a friendly warning to not hotlink images from that site.
What should I be doing instead?
Rehost your images! Go to http://imageshack.us
, or http://www.tinypic.com
, or http://www.photobucket.com
, and upload images that you want to post on 2+2 there first - you can click the "url" uploading option and just paste the link in to the picture you want to rehost, it will save the picture on their site and give you a new link to the picture that doesn't go to the original web host and you can rely on to not be ****ed with.
Even if you link to someone else's photobucket account, remember that they can hypothetically take any image there and replace it with another image (until Photobucket deletes them for violating their TOS if they're particularly bad). Be weary of what can happen with the links you post; the safest response is always
to rehost things yourself and post links you know are okay and won't be compromised.
Now, this obviously isn't necessary 100% of the time; it's unlikely that pictures from espn.com or cnn.com or whatever are going to suddenly change into hardcore porn or anything. If you do hotlink something though, remember: you are responsible for the consequences.
Questions are welcome.