Recently, webring owners (known as ringmasters) noticed a small problem with their webrings. In case you do not know, webrings are a 'site promotion technique' which allows pages or sites of a similar theme (defined by the ringmaster) to be linked together. A special set of code called a "ring fragment" is added to each page in the ring to allow navigation from site to site. These are called rings because if you continue surfing through the ring you will eventually come back to the site from which you started.
Anyway, on older style rings (webrings which were created before Yahoo destroyed, haha simplified, the system the HTML fragment was often gorgeous and contained one or more graphics. Since the webring system did not allow graphics to be stored with the fragment, the graphics were either stored locally to each site, or they were stored in a place common to all sites. This was often the ringmasters main site.
Well, free hosts such as Geocities make their money from the banner advertisements shown at the top (or side or bottom) of each page. Displaying a graphic in a ring fragment does not generate any income.
Thus, Geocities (now owned by Yahoo) decided to change their servers to block any and all remote accesses to graphic images. The webring owners were not the only ones who were inconvenienced by this change, however. They were just one of the first groups of people to notice.
Another huge group of people who where immediately (and far more seriously) inconvenienced was guestbook owners and signers. You see, it's common for people to sign guestbooks and leave graphics images as presents. Since guestbooks do not allow for storage of graphics locally, it is very common for people to store them on their own websites.
Unfortunately, many people stored those guestbook graphics on their Geocities website. Thus, when Geocities pulled the plug on remote image loading, all of those wonderful images in guestbooks became filled with a blank space.
What is the worst problem with all of this? While the webring owners can generally edit their pages to load the images locally, guestbook owners usually have no such recourse. Very few of the free guestbooks (none that I know of) allow the entries to be edited once they are posted. Even if they did, it would often be a huge, labor intensive task to make the necessary changes. Thus, we are left with permanently ugly guestbooks.
Did Geocities do something wrong? Well, according to their terms and conditions everything that they have done is perfectly okay. In fact, Geocities would claim that those who remotely linked images were violating the terms and conditions of creating a Geocities website. However, one could argue that if you don't enforce something it becomes null and void. I have wondered what would happen if Geocities webmasters filed a class action suit against that company? I know in the workplace, at least, if you have company policies on the books but you do not enforce them or have practices that run counter to the written words, then the policy does not legally exist.
This is not the first time this has happened, by the way. Other free hosts such as Angelfire and Xoom (now NBCI) did exactly the same thing within the last year, and produced exactly the same results.
What's the answer? My recommendation, as always, is to pay for your site. Paid hosts such as yourname.com offer fast, efficient web sites for under $10 a month (less than a pizza for lunch). Since you are directly paying for the bandwidth, you can do whatever you want with it. Thus, you can remote link to guestbooks and webrings and anything else that your heart desires.
The shame of it all is now, thanks to these free hosts, the web is permanently left with the ugly scars of their efforts to make money at the expense of their users. Is this wrong? In my humble opinion, these free hosts have known about this practice for years, and to just start enforcing this kind of thing now is unethical and hostile towards their users.
You have to remember that hosts such as Geocities, Yahoo, Xoom, and others have no loyalty to their user base. Understand this, their customers are not their users. Their customers are advertisers, and that is where the money is. Web site owners are just another commodity ...
So if you want want to become a 'webring groupie', or if you need an 'imaginary crutch' to lean on, and you won't be able to able to manage on your own,....by all means do it on a paid site, as I mentioned above, it costs less than a large pizza to get your site hosted these days.
Why on earth would you want to put loads of huge 'ring fragments' on your website? Just because they give you one link? Remember you will have to give about 30 or so links, to people you dont know or give a damn about. So have a banner exchange program. You give me one and I will give you one in return.
A more professional/useful/intelligent approach would be to.... Promote the sites, that you think you feel like promoting, for whatever reasons of your own. It might be a site full of interesting topics, with rich content, perhaps a good cause. But survey a site before you link to itI am learning new tricks of the trade everyday. Before I thought I knew it all, I know now that, I don't even know 1/10th of what I should know. Did you know that Java script which sends a "no you cant copy here message" Well thats a farce too? I am sure you did'nt. I spent hours a day putting it on my site so no one could steal my work and I was wrong again, if you know the way you can get what you want off anyones site, even if they have that script, its just to fool begginers. So you don't have to believe everything you hear. I did this page, because I am always getting messages from friends and strangers asking me to help put their ring fragments on their webpages etc. Or complaints of back biting going on in the ring, sometimes or rather quite often, interferance as to the content. My reply is always the same. Keep away from them. "And afterall, if you fall out with them you land up with 20 or 30 enemies. But if you are your own boss you have only yourself to deal with.
Future pages I will be dealing with the issue of SPAM, and what Vote pages are all about. Having an exciting website is so much fun and adventure. Don't waste any time, go for it on your own and you will see how much 'successful' you will be, not to mention 'safer'.