TrackBacks are (still) dead

Over at the DrunkenBlog, the drunkenbatman gives a final farewell to trackback. He joins Tom Coates, Jeremy Zawodny and yours truly in thinking that TrackBacks are dead. I silently killed them months ago, oh the joy of not wasting time cleaning up thousands of spammy pings everyday! I agree with Drunkenbatman that TrackBack Extreme™ is not there yet, even Google's link: feature isn't that good of an option since it takes ages for this information to be updated in Google's index. From what I see here, determined people are used to come and manually link to their post in the comments of the relevant entry, so all the joy is not gone while we're waiting for Puppies Extreme™.

This said, I would not necessarily recomment everyone to get rid of TrackBacks on their blog. It depends if and how badly one is hit by spam, basically one needs to balance the benefits of having TrackBacks and their inconvenience (time, mainly, but sometimes reputation when your blog runs listing of offensive spam before you can clean it) of manually handling them because the design makes them inherently insecure and prone to abuse. Sure you can take some counter measures, like running your site under mod_security (often a good idea) or moderating all TrackBacks a priori but those are still time-consuming and not completely spammer proof. Eat your own TrackBack food and decide for yourself!


[mode troll=ON, shameless-plug=YES]
Ahem, somebody badly needs proper anti-spam plugin ...
[end mode troll, shameless-plug]

More seriously:

1) On my main blog, the number of spam attempts is somewhere in the vicinity of a few hundreds a day.
Half of that is TB spam.
On the other hand, I get about a dozen legit TBs in the same period.
The exact number of TB spam to have ever made it on my blog (or in moderation) is *zero*. Not a single false positive, not a single TB spam making it through. They all get trashed directly and silently. And this sort of accuracy isn't exactly hard to obtain, given that:

2) In order to cut TB spam to 0%, one only has to require that the trackbacking blog contains a URL pointing to the post.
In effect, this turns TB into a sort of pseudo-PB (with still a few of the "advantages" of TB, such as the possibility to use lightweight HTTP Post syntax rather than XML-RPC, and thus gaining wider compatibility with some blogging systems).

Now, I agree that one might say this form of filtering changes the nature of TB. And in that respect, the original TB concept (i.e. no identification, not requirement for reciprocity) is "dead".

Does it matter?

I don't think so. This form of TB still holds a few advantages over PB, is practically spam-proof, yet does its job of threading conversations across blogs. What else could one want?

(no requirement for reciprocity) has in opinion gone for a while and not necessary for TB spam filtering reason since most people within the blogosphere are ranking maniac ... actually very few are blogging as a hobby ...

What a shame ! I still believe that automated (ie. systematic) TB combined with (intelligent) Tags could give birth to a wonderful tool for organizing the ecosystem by ongoing topics ...

@Dr Dave: "somebody badly needs proper anti-spam plugin", until version 3.2 MT has had a lame TrackBack management. I'm still running an older version. This said, you forget that when you receive bursts of TB spam in the range of thousands in minutes, this equates to a DOS attack and can bring your blog (and its anti-spam plugin) on its knees. I've seen that right here. Those spammers are really stupid. And you're lucky that you don't have any false positive and no spam getting through, but are you sure it will last forever? And does this mean that we currently all have to use WordPress (not an option for me at this stage, I prefer to shut TB down)?

@Ray: I agree.

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