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AOL Blocks Links from LiveJournal 396

Posted by michael
from the clue-not-found dept.
Evan Martin writes "LiveJournal.com is an open-source weblog site with over a million users, some of whom use AOL. Last week, AOL began blocking all HTTP requests with "www.livejournal.com" Referer headers. This is a common practice by image hosting sites to prevent off-site linking of their images and 'bandwidth theft'. However, in AOL's case, they're blocking everything, not just images, effectively breaking all links to any AOL member's site--but only from LiveJournal. To be clear: nobody on LiveJournal can even make a link to any AOL member site without getting a '404 Not Found' error. We've also heard reports of the same thing happening on AOL properties (Netscape, Compuserve). This concerns us because we have to deal with the support requests: it worked in the past for our users, and it continues to work for other sites, so our users think it's our fault."

Martin continues: "We've tried to contact AOL three different ways, all without success. We've also told our users to contact their tech support. At one point, an AOL staffer pointed out that FTP access still worked (which is probably because FTP has no "Referrer" concept), and so, as an interim fix, we're rewriting all HTTP URLs to use FTP on the AOL properties where that works instead. This means that users can again host their images on the AOL webspace they're paying for, but more importantly, it means they can simply link to their webpage.

We wouldn't be so upset if they were simply blocking images. Bandwidth use is a valid concern, after all, and we even provide step-by-step instructions for people to configure their webservers to prevent image "theft". However, because they're blocking all access, including regular links, this looks like it's either a mistake, or something more insidious (the conspiracy theorists have pointed out that AOL has just launched their own competing weblog product, also based on "journals").

Although CI Host sued AOL recently for being blocked, we really don't want to do that. We still suspect that this was all just a mistake, and hopefully, by making this public, we'll manage to get their attention, since all our previous attempts have failed."

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AOL Blocks Links from LiveJournal

Comments Filter:
  • F12 (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:47PM (#6829324)
    Enable referrer logging
    • Re:F12 (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nasarius (593729) on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:48PM (#6829337)
      Gotta love Opera :)
      • Re:F12 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by randyest (589159) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:02PM (#6829430) Homepage
        Well, if I were an AOL user right now (quite a stretch to imagine, I'm afraid), I'd be loving to check my contract to see if it provides for such limitations on user personal space. If not, I'd call to complain (I'd probably do that anyway, right before I called my new ISP). I know that my cable modem "free" hosted space included has a very specific contract that limits the monthly bandwidth usage, but does not mention anything about blocking access for links or clicks from other domains. I wouldn't be happy if they suddenly started returning 404 Page Not Found errors when anyone linked or clicked from foo.com.

        Maybe they can claim technical difficulties if called on it, or maybe the contract does let them yank their users around like this. I don't know. Does anyone here use AOL and will admit it long enogh to post a link or copy of the appropriate contract?

        Of course, there's the tinfoil-hat theory that AOL is planning to start thier own blogging service and wants to drag LiveJournal down from it's #1 spot a bit. Seems like a particularly blatant and non-clever way to do this though, or maybe that's the "beauty" of the whole ingenious plot? ;)

        Finally, I'm going to hope the /. editors checked this out somehow. I don't have AOL space. Can anyone else verify this is true and not just some EBKAC or hoax?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:24PM (#6829587)
      ...welcome our new AOL overlords.

      I'm getting a ritual circumcision as required by AOL CEO Levin as we speakKKKKALRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @10:30PM (#6830631)
      I don't have a problem with <obligatoryDerisiveness> AOhelL </obligatoryDerisiveness> preventing people from leeching images from their site, but there's a simple way to get around their prevention of direct links to their site: redirect using a META tag, which strips the referer header and makes it look like a direct request.

      For example:

      If you want to link from livejournal.com/myPage1.html to members.aol.com/~myOtherPage.html, then make the link go to livejournal.com/myPage2.html ..... in the header of myPage2.html, include this meta tag:

      <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=http://members.aol.com/~myOtherPage.html">

      It works accross all browsers and appears to AOL as if somebody just typed that URL directly into the address bar of their browser.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:48PM (#6829328)
    It's optional, so browsers don't need to send it. Mozilla/Firebird/etc (and Opera) can be easily modified to not send one, and the Google Toolbar could probably support blocking them, too (since IE isn't being updated). AOL is a big enough presence that this could have a significant impact on peoples' browsing.
    • Wait a minute (Score:5, Interesting)

      by s20451 (410424) on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:56PM (#6829396) Journal
      Anytime there's an article that whines about deep linking, a few dozen people post replies saying that the company could use the referer header to block all such requests. Now that a company is actually doing it, it's suddenly a bad idea. Which is it -- good technical solution or bad censorship?

      I should also point out that some sites automatically block slashdot.org referers as a matter of self protection.
      • Re:Wait a minute (Score:5, Insightful)

        by isorox (205688) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:03PM (#6829442) Homepage Journal
        My Libertarian side says AOL are free to do whatever the hell they want, it's their server. If you ask the AOL server for a page and it send you the goatse man, thats fine, thats their right. Vote with your wallet and dont buy their service.

        My more centrist side says this could be abusing a monopoly (or at least dominant position), OK they dont have a microsoft style monopoly, but they do have the monopoly over Joe Stupid.

        My cynical side says who gives a flying fuck
      • Re:Wait a minute (Score:5, Insightful)

        by infornogr (603568) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:04PM (#6829447)
        I regret to inform you that all Slashdot comments are not posted by the same person. Not only are there different people on Slashdot, some of them have different opinions. It's a shocking revelation, I know.
      • Re:Wait a minute (Score:3, Insightful)

        by randyest (589159)
        Um, I don't think this is really about deep linking. There's not much meat in the story summary, but as I understand it they are blocking access to AOL users' hosted web space (the "free" 20-50MB or whatever, usually with a monthly BW limit, that comes with most ISP accounts.)

        Seems to me that this comes down to a question of the wording in the AOL user contract -- if it allows this, then the folks are SOL and chould change ISPs. If it doesn't allow this (such as my cable modem accont, which only mentio
      • Re:Wait a minute (Score:5, Insightful)

        by danielsfca2 (696792) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:09PM (#6829483) Journal
        Deep linking seems to be a totally different issue here. Your average AOL user who wants to place a link on their LiveJournal to "members.aol.com/aoluser" would derive little value from a link to "www.aol.com" or even "members.aol.com"!

        This is webspace that AOL gives its users as part of their paid service. When you pay for webspace, the general idea is that it supports these things called hyperlinks. It stands to reason that you or anyone else should be allowed to link to your website from any other website. Any deviation from this traditional behavior should be documented in their terms of service, and is very shortsighted and/or stupid, as it threatens the very nature of the WWW, much like restrictions/penalties on linking to sites that are deemed undesirable.

      • Anytime there's an article that whines about deep linking, a few dozen people post replies saying that the company could use the referer header to block all such requests. Now that a company is actually doing it, it's suddenly a bad idea

        What does deep linking have to do with this? The story says it is all linking from a particular site that is being blocked.

      • Re:Wait a minute (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kaltkalt (620110)
        A good technical solution and an act of bad censorship are not mutually exclusive descriptions. Yeah, one has the word good and the other has the word bad, but those adjectives modify different things. In other words, AOL's actions can be both a good technical solution and an act of bad censorship. For example, the attacks on September 11th were a good technical solution to killing lots of people one considers to be "infidels" but also a very bad, evil, horrible act. Point: your dichotomy is false. If
      • Re:Wait a minute (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ralphus (577885)

        Which is it -- good technical solution or bad censorship?

        It is *both* a good technical solution and bad censorship.

        A "technical solution" does not carry any moral or wider value judgements with it. It's essentally binary logic and a problem being addressed can be approached with the cold hard pragmatism of doing a math problem. It is objective.

        The moral status of censorship is subjective. AOL's perfectly happy with the solution, or at least they are for the time being. Those being censored will us

    • I certainly hope that this, or something like it, kills the Referer: header.

      Then, those of us with a Referrer: header agenda will finally have our opportunity.

    • It may be optional, but in my experience of using JunkBuster there are some sites which won't work without a referrer header coming from their site.

      If the referrer header does die and those sites have to reconfigure their systems I don't see that as a bad thing. Why should I be treated any differently based on the previous site I have visited, or because I want to keep my browsing history private?

    • by mosschops (413617) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:19PM (#6829553)
      I use a program [admuncher.com] which allows me to change the referer header to appear to be from the same site I'm browsing. Not only does that protect my privacy but it works with the vast majority of sites that clamp down on content linking / bandwidth stealing. Sometimes simply removing the referer will kick you back out to an index page, which is a pain.
    • by strredwolf (532) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:23PM (#6829583) Homepage Journal
      Unfortunately, killing the referer header breaks alot of sites which are blocking image pointing. We (KeenSpace) just put in header checking. We do it so that if a request for an image isn't from a webpage we host (eazy stuff to do), it's 404'ed.

      We cut our bandwith by 50% that way.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:41PM (#6830043)
        Then you are dickheads, plain and simple. The HTTP 1.1 RFC explicitly states that users should be able to turn off the Referer header. There are plenty of reasons for doing so. Furthermore, you aren't even using the right status code. It's 401 Unauthorized when you want to deny access, 404 means the content is missing (which it clearly isn't).

        There _is_ a fairly safe way of doing what you are after - let through empty strings and strings with spaces in. This lets through legitimate users who either disable the referer header, or have it set to "blocked by Norton" or whatever, whilst still stopping anyone from usefully using your bandwidth (since most of their visitors will still be providing the referer header).
        • by j7953 (457666) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @10:51AM (#6832794)
          Furthermore, you aren't even using the right status code. It's 401 Unauthorized when you want to deny access, 404 means the content is missing

          Yes, but...

          First, the "correct" status code would be be 403 Forbidden, 401 Unauthorized is used if "the request requires user authentication" and will cause the browser to prompt the user for login information.

          And for status 403, the HTTP standard (RFC 2616 [rfc-editor.org]) says that "If the server does not wish to make this information [explaining why the request what not fulfilled] available to the client, the status code 404 (Not Found) can be used instead." The normal use for status 404 is if the server cannot find the requested resource, but according to the RFC it is also "commonly used when the server does not wish to reveal exactly why the request has been refused, or when no other response is applicable."

          So, either status code 403 or 404 are correct when trying to prevent precise ("deep") links from working. I agree that 403 is preferable.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:44PM (#6830428)
        which is the main reason i dont goto any site on keenspace, one less visitor for you, one less comic for me. oh well, theres plenty more sites that dont block empty referrals.

        you may have cut half your bandwidth, but youll notice you also cut a third of your user base. hey, you might try blocking images for EVERYONE, then youd REALLY save some serious bandwidth!
        somehow i just dont envision there being millions of sites posting entire comic strips on their pages linking to your sites images...
    • by Spy Hunter (317220) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:56PM (#6829771) Journal
      I think I'm going to configure my browser to always send a referrer string that is identical to the URL it is requesting, and to send a user-agent string of "Googlebot". After all, everyone wants Google to index their content, right? I'll bet you could get into more than one subscription site with this strategy.
    • by kjj (32549) on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:32PM (#6830927)
      Just head over to here [mozdev.org] and get the extension. There is even a "Ref=URL" checkbox to make your browser always use the current URL as the referer string so unless websites start blocking themselves, no problem. The good news is that it was just updated to be Firebird compatible as well.
    • ...Mozilla/Firebird/etc (and Opera) can be easily modified to not send [a referrer header]...

      For Mozilla/Firebird/etc, just install the Prefbar [mozdev.org] addin. It can be customized to include a send referrer button. Personally, I like the kill flash button the best. Makes those dancing flash ads quiet, while still allowing me to use flash.

  • hopefully (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:48PM (#6829331)
    Hopefully this is a temporary block giving them enough time to increase their bandwidth to the correct systems. And right now they are blocking everything so they can come up with a game plan.
    • Re:hopefully (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EvilStein (414640) <spam.pbp@net> on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:19PM (#6829555) Homepage
      Heh. Uh, AOL has more than enough bandwidth to handle freekin *livejournal linkage*....

      When I worked there (Netscape), we had 5 OC-48s in our building alone. OC-12s & DS-3 circuits for "redundancy."

      I highly doubt that it has anything to do with bandwidth.
    • sure (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SHEENmaster (581283) <travis@utk . e du> on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:28PM (#6829622) Homepage Journal
      AOL invented blanket blocking. I'm blocked from their SMTP server, and I've heard several different justifications for it.

      I suspect that they are like SCO, in that no one with any self respect or knowledge will work for them. The first time I complained about being blocked, they replied that no one there knew how to allow a server on a "dynamic" subnet. (Dynamic my shiny metal ass.) Later, I heard that no one knew how to allow one ip address while blocking the rest of the subnet. As a result, I'm being accused of the half a billion pieces of spam my ISP's other customers send to AOL.

      Let's hope that broadband finally kills those bastards off. I hope their stock falls so much in value that they start using outstanding shares as toilet paper. (I'd pay to use it as toilet paper, but they want a lot more than it's worth...)
      • Re:sure (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dtfinch (661405) *
        You're not alone. Some of my customers are AOL users. When they send me emails asking for tech support, I usually have to reply through AOL Instant Messenger.
    • Re:hopefully (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's clearly not bandwidth for another reason: If it was a bandwidth issue, they'd be blocking everything (or, at least, a lot more than just one blogging site) -- and as the previous reply pointed out, they've got lots of bandwidth available. I doubt that LiveJournal is that high a volume site.

      On the other hand, this really stinks of anti-competetive practices in the light of the fact that they're just now moving into the blogging market. If LiveJournal can come up with a lawyer (other than Boies) w

  • Litigate (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bruha (412869)
    All I can say is begin the complaint process with AOL. Get a someone who'll file the proper paperwork and maybe file a lawsuit to get things put back the way they're supposed to be unless it's a genuine mistake on AOL.

    Also put up a message on your support lines with Steve Case's phone # to call him for support :)
  • Good. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Genghis Troll (158585) on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:49PM (#6829344) Homepage Journal
    Anything that discourages "blogging" can't be all bad.
  • AOL and Blogs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zangdesign (462534) on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:50PM (#6829347) Journal
    Actually, you may want to investigate whether or not AOL has gone live with their blog offering ( article here [washingtonpost.com]). If so, it may be viewed as an intentional act.

  • tinyurl? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wavicle (181176) on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:50PM (#6829351)
    Could you get around this using tinyurl [tinyurl.com]? I'm not sure if it changes the HTTP_REFERRER or not.
    • Re:tinyurl? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jouster (144775) * <slashdotNO@SPAMangelfaq.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:02PM (#6829435) Homepage Journal
      TinyURL uses a Location: header, which should kill off the referer, yes. But asking everyone to TinyURL their images is a bit much, don't you think? Besides, some browsers don't like having 3XX statuses (stati?) as replies to their image requests, so you'd break some people.

      AOL just needs to stop doing that shit. Clamp down on the people transferring 200 gigs in the exhibitionism-community-of-the-week, and leave everyone else alone.

      Jouster (My LJ [livejournal.com])
    • Re:tinyurl? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chmarr (18662) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:04PM (#6829453)
      It TOTALLY depends on the browser you're using.

      If you're on web page A, click on a link to B and it redirects to C, some browsers will, when fetching C, have a referrer of A, and some will have a referrer of B.
      • Re:tinyurl? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lspd (566786)
        The trick is for the relay site to use a meta refresh instead of a HTTP redirect. It always blocks out the referrer.

        Doesn't work for images, but who cares?
  • Well played... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tempest303 (259600) <jensknutson@ y a h o o .com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:51PM (#6829358) Homepage
    This is a really level-headed, well played move on LJ's part - primarily because they're following the universal principle of assuming stupidity before malice. ;)
    • A very good point (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pgrote (68235)
      Many times in a large organization changes are made where the impact across the enterprise isn't realized either through poor planning or lack of full testing. Sometimes you just miss something.

      I do like their approach of hitting up the Slashdot crowd looking for more information and passing on what they have.

      More companies should do like you said ... try cooperation and information sharing rather than decalring war.
  • Scary image (Score:2, Funny)

    by ded_guy (698956)
    Following the second link [livejournal.com] in the text, I ended up at this image [aol.com].
    Yet another reason not to like AOL users. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go wash out my eyes with nitric acid.
  • Sorta related (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tyler Eaves (344284) on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:53PM (#6829370)
    Any else noticed that members.aol.com is sending an invalid content-type header?

    I've seen iso8859 and text/iso8859-html, neither of which Firebird likes...
  • Use link referers (Score:4, Informative)

    by EDA Wizard (2225) on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:53PM (#6829375) Homepage
    Until this mess gets sorted out, people should use a free link relocator service. Make A Shorter Link [makeashorterlink.com] would work well for links to AOL pages.

    It wouldn't help people with embedded links to images at AOL, but at least it could get people to AOL without any additional clicking.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:54PM (#6829383)
    Well not the whole AOL network, but the former mozilla division blocked links from slashdot (and still does), (Example [mozilla.org]). Any sites that cause major bandwidth use should be blocked, I'm sure some frequest slashdotters get the infamous Pink page of death.
  • Solution: (Score:4, Informative)

    by WCMI92 (592436) on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:54PM (#6829384) Homepage
    Don't use an ISP that is "broken". AOL has little to recommend it.

    I use Adelphia PowerLink at home. On the road, I have a dial up account with a local ISP with dial up numbers in the cities I frequently have to visit.
    • Re:Solution: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mage Powers (607708)
      thats a little pie-in-the-sky, Are you sure the linkers are linking thier own stuff? bloggers don't make things, they link things.
    • Re:Solution: (Score:4, Insightful)

      by carsont (648940) <tc+slashdotNO@SPAMjc.dsl.telerama.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @08:01PM (#6829790)
      Don't use an ISP that is "broken". AOL has little to recommend it.


      Well, for one thing, AOL has been "broken" in many ways for many years, and yet they still have an enormous and loyal user base. So does Windows, for that matter.

      The problem is that for the average AOL user, who to put it bluntly is probably both too stupid to figure this out on their own and too lazy to read LiveJournal's explanation, it will appear just as likely that LiveJournal is "broken", not AOL. They will squeal "OMG WTF IT DONT WORK!!!!!1!!!11!!! :-(" and leap into the open arms of AOL's competing service. Whether or not AOL planned it this way is irrelevant.

      This is how the fragile and complex interoperability between pieces of computer software, which is opaque to most users, can subvert the workings of the free marketplace; if company A sabotages their product so that it won't work with company B's product, it is easy for customers to be fooled into blaming company B.

      Microsoft did this with their implementation of Java, and probably many other times. I doubt if this is some deliberate strategy on AOL's part, but the result will probably be the same regardless.
  • Why is it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pongo000 (97357) on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:54PM (#6829386)
    ...that people bend over backwards to accomodate companies with draconian policies like AOL? If I were running an ISP, the loss of a few customers because they suddenly discovered they could no longer send e-mail to AOL customers through no fault of my own would most likely be offset by new customers who understand that the earth does not revolve around AOL. So they're blocking incoming HTTP traffic based on referrer? Are there not more pressing problems to attend to rather than trying to please the AOL gods?

    I'm not saying AOL is in the right. I'm simply saying that AOL (and companies like them) should be made to lie in the bed they make for themselves. Only when AOL customers start to be inconvenienced by AOL's own policies (rather than third parties patching together "workarounds" in a misguided attempt to protect the integrity of AOL) will they realize what AOL is up to...
  • mail as well? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by m0i (192134) on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:54PM (#6829387) Homepage
    "And now we have a request from an AOL user that suddenly they stopped getting LJ emails. They say AOL did just add some new spam filters, so that may relate.

    It almost makes you think that they don't like us..."
    AOLers are only getting sanitized Internet to the company's liking... Those who are not happy should switch.
  • by HutchGeek (597438) <hutchdm@[ ]cast.net ['com' in gap]> on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:57PM (#6829402) Journal
    Seriously - they wonder why they get such a bad rap from the internet community at large. Most likey what has happend is that "Upper Management" made the decision to do it for some reason (although the journal conspiracy sounds quite probable), and they did't bother to ask the "real staff" what kind of an impact it would have. Now, once again, they've managed to piss a whole lot of people off. Makes you wonder what else they've blocked (censored) that thier users don't know about. I've heard rumblings on NANOG that they are trying to whitelist thier email too. There's a bright idea - a customer base the size AOL has, and their gonna whitelist mailservers. and my cutsomers wonder why I get ready to slap them when they suggest using AOL for a provider.

  • by inertia@yahoo.com (156602) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:58PM (#6829406) Homepage Journal
    That's wrong of AOL, but if you're a LiveJournal user in a bind and really want to fix the links (but nothing else) fast, here's a JavaScript that you can load in all of your pages. You just need to load it once, and the page will work.

    Unfortunately, this trick really only works with MSIE. But it's better than nothing.
    <script language="javascript" type="text/javascript" src="http://www.martin-studio.com/js_tools/strip_r eferrer.js"></script>
    The above should all be on one line. Check for extra white space where the line feed got placed by Slashdot's bug (thanks alot).

    It should be strip_referrer.js with no space. Why does Slashdot do that??
    • by jamie (78724) <jamie@slashdot.org> on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:12PM (#6829504) Journal
      Dear God in heaven, anyone who does this is nuts.

      Load a javascript off the website of someone else you don't trust? Cmon now... let's just invite a stranger into your home to watch all your websurfing, or post the contents of your cookie file to your LJ.

      Anthony, I'm sure you're a nice guy and all, but would you trust a random stranger's javascript on every one of your webpages?

      (The space added to the URL you pasted in is added to every long word at the 50-character mark, to make sure idiots can't break your browser rendering by typing very long words into their comments.)

    • I believe the reason for that bug is as follows:

      If a page has a single line which is wider than the browser windows, then every line on that page will expand to that width, which forces the reader to scroll horizontally and back every single line, which is very annoying.

      Slashdot avoids this by simply adding a space every N characters. This could be better done by having it add a space if there are N consecutive nonspace characters, but it is done for good reason.
    • Slashdot's code has a feature to prevent people from inserting obscenely long character strings into comments. This prevents people from making the rendered page any wider than the default resolution on your monitor. It automagically inserts a space after some amount of continuous non-space characters.

      123456787901234567879012345678790123456787901234 56 78790

      As with most features, it's there for a reason. This one just happens to be based on page-widening trolls.
    • Um.. last I checked, LiveJournal does not allow any scripting to be included in your entries.

      Too easy to abuse.
    • Try this:

      <A HREF="javascript:window.location='http://phroggy.c om/';">Link</A>

      Or:

      <A HREF="http://phroggy.com/" onClick="window.location='http://phroggy.com/'; return false;">Link</A>

      Somebody correct me if I've made an obvious error in my JavaScript. You get the idea, though.
    • There's a server side fix for this too, isn't there? I mean, you can control the headers in asp and php, can't you just ... well, you'd have to rewrite all the links to aol to an 'image server' page on the LiveJournal site that requests images/pages from aol and returns them to the calling document (the livejournal user). Your image/document retrieval script would request the image/document from AOL with a custom-crafted header that tells AOL the request is coming from ... wherever (AOL might be nice...).
  • by militantbob (666209) <militant@NOsPAM.nycap.rr.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @06:59PM (#6829415) Homepage
    ...on usage of the customer webspace? Does it have to be a full site, or can it be a storage place for images/files linked to from another site? Consumers are paying for the AOL service, and getting AOL webspace as part of the deal - are there limitations on its utilization?
  • Referrer Header (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mrs. Grundy (680212) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:05PM (#6829460) Homepage
    I, for one, like the referer heading. It is useful to see where traffic is coming from and it really stinks that AOL is going to encourage people to mess with it, remove it, or spoof it. This will be the ONLY result of AOL's action. They may get a short break from livejournal links but people will work around it. The internet is about linking after all. If AOL want's to invent their own thing with their own rules they should make their own little private net like they used to have and they can remain one tight, happy, cloistered little clique. Of course if the referer header becomes useless maybe it would be a good opportunity to fix one of the most influential spelling errors in recent time and start using the refeRRer header instead.
  • AOL blows (Score:2, Interesting)

    by destiney (149922)

    Pretty soon AOL will have blocked all of it's lusers from the entire web.

  • We may need an anonymizer for everyone on the net.
  • by Plix (204304) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:06PM (#6829469) Homepage
    That should AOL continue to block deep-linking (which they have the right to do so assuming that there is no contradictory clause in a user's contract) they should at least redirect users to a page explaining what is actually going on rather than leaving them to complain to LJ support.
  • Leave it to AOL... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheHawke (237817)
    to use sledgehammer tactics when it comes to something they don't like..
    Stupid, stupid, stupid..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:11PM (#6829497)
    A lot of websites let you bounce to other sites. Here are some demonstations

    Debian link to aol.com [debian.org]
    Yahoo link to aol.com [yahoo.com]
    Google link to aol.com [google.com]
    Goatse link (yes, its true, goatse is useful!) to aol.com [goatse.cx]

    Hopefully, unless AOL wants to block the internet off, people will get around, and we can always set up p2p based redirection system (ala freenet). To get trough.
  • ..that insist on using this lame service from hell ...

    "It's not the internet - It's AOL"

    Here's another reason why thats too true.
  • Company People (Score:4, Interesting)

    by philipkd (528838) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:12PM (#6829501) Homepage
    Why can't we treat companies like people? If a friend of your group all of a sudden has all this money, but abuses it by playing little Napoleon, why can't you treat him with disrespect and ostracize him?

    When AOL needed help setting up their blogging software, who did they talk to? People like Dave Winer and other members of the net community.

    So shouldn't there be some sort of Karma here where we, the blogging community, ostracize a bad player. They do it to spammers all the time, why not to the big guys. They'll eventually realize that it's not profitable to do so, and conform.

    We could choose to disallow AOL urls into weblogs. We could prevent anybody with an AOL account having an RSS feed to a Blogger or LiveJournal. We could ban them from our conferences. Sounds like we're being assholes or "closed" by doing so, but I think it's important for people to check the bully to in the long-term enable the most openess possible.

    • Re:Company People (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It's too hard to get a substatial number of sites involved. I'd join a major effort like that, but I sure wouldn't be an early adopter.

      Also, I'd block **AA sites from access my site before AOL and have it show them a note saying they're prohibited from visiting my site and any attempt to get around it violates the DMCA.
      • I'd block **AA sites from access my site before AOL and have it show them a note saying they're prohibited from visiting my site and any attempt to get around it violates the DMCA.
        This has to be the one of the best things I've ever read on /. Now I wish I hadn't wasted those mod points ..... oh, wait, they expired yesterday ..... bother.
  • Idea. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    (1) Break your user's websites.
    (2) ???
    (3) Profit!
  • by adpowers (153922) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:30PM (#6829629)
    I just blocked all AOL users from accessing my website. I am considering blocking incoming mail from AOL users, but I have to talk it over with my users first. If AOL will block internet hosts willy-nilly (they blocked me because I'm on a dynamic connection), then I might as well block them too.
  • Update (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Images hosted on Netscape and on FTP servers are now being blocked as well.

    This block seems more intermittent, but it makes you wonder, since Netscape is owned by AOHELL...
  • by mad_dog3283 (585389) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:36PM (#6829661)
    Stupidity like this won't affect me at all. I use the Proxomitron [proxomitron.info], and I have the referrer field set to \u (which I think is the default setting). \u inserts the current URL into the referrer field. So, for example, if I hit a link on www.slashdot.org/foo.htm to www.aol.com/foo.htm, the Proxomitron will send www.aol.com/foo.htm and not www.slashdot.org/foo.htm to the server. This is especially helpful for sites that return 404's to requests with blank referrers (since the server always thinks the request is coming from its domain when in reality it may not be.)
  • HEH. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gnea (2566) on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:43PM (#6829703)
    Am I the only one here that remembers AOL from back in the day? I'm talking 1994 here. Had it for a month, then they cancelled my account behind my back with no prior warning because i downloaded too much stuff. Back then, all they had was email. Now AOL is getting all restrictive again. This doesn't surprize me too much, but it'd be nice if they would keep the 'net a friendly place. I guess the current neophytes have prevented such action.
  • Simple.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by adeyadey (678765)
    If you have paid for the space, and they put a block on, sue them..
  • by Kallahar (227430) <kallahar@quickwired.com> on Friday August 29, 2003 @07:52PM (#6829747) Homepage
    I believe sites that have been slashdotted in the past have done this same thing to prevent their server from getting flooded. I think it's AOL's right to do this, they don't want livejournal linking to them. The polite thing to do would be to say why in the error page though, not just give a 404.

    On a technical note, you can set up a page with a META Refresh which will clear the referrer (a HTTP server transfer will keep the original referrer intact though)
  • If so, then I'm convinced that AOL is out to stamp out non AOLer blogs. Jerkfaces.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If AOL is having a problem with people chewing up a huge amount of bandwidth using AOL as an imageserver for LiveServer, blocking all file types would be necessary unless AOL wants to screw with the content. The reason? IE doesn't care what you call an image - it can be "hotpr0n.html" and IE is "smart" enough to figure out it's a jpeg and display it. Plus, the pr0nmongers could always make AOL hosted iframes for their images, so even if AOL could spare the computing power to analyse every document it ser
  • by BrynM (217883) * on Friday August 29, 2003 @09:39PM (#6830401) Homepage Journal
    You can leave them feedback regarding this decision at the AOL Feedback Page [aol.com]. Let them know that this decision will impact more than they expect it will and that you are disappointed with their actions. You don't have to be a customer. Most of us are technology experts who have influence on their potential and existing customer base. I've included my submission as an example, but please write your own.
    I find it disappointing that you are blocking content linked from such a popular site as LiveJournal based on referrer headers (see this slashdot discussion: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/08/29/205724 2&mode=thread&tid=120&tid=187&tid=96&tid=9 9). I have recommended your services in the past, but that will stop now. Further, I will inform AOL customers whom I have recommended AOL to that their content is not available to sites that AOL seems to disapprove of for no stated reason.

    Changing your policy regarding this may defer my judgement about your "service", but your reputation has been irrecoverably tarnished in my view. Additionally your subsidaries, such as Netscape, will no longer be recommended by me.

    You may be thinking "Who cares? This is someone who isn't even our customer", but I have become the technology "guru" for over 100 people in my personal life and have input on technology decisions at my workplace. What should worry you is that for every peice of feedback you recieve like mine, there are hundreds of technologically literate people who will simply downplay or berate your services and will not do you the professional courtesy of informing you.

    Formerly Respectfully Yours,
    BrynM

  • by annielaurie (257735) <annekmadison@hotmail.c3.14159om minus pi> on Friday August 29, 2003 @11:58PM (#6831036) Journal
    My, undereducated guess is that AOL's done this because they have their own homogenated, cuticized, totally non-open-slammed-shut, AOL blogs. Yes, folks! According to their information:

    "Everyone has a story to tell; what's yours? Create an AOL Journal about your summer vacation, being pregnant or trying to find a new job. AOL makes it easy, fast and fun!"
    "Get Started Today
    Create a Journal
    Build your own blog
    with our cool tools. "

    It's all right there. I didn't have the heart to actually check out the blogs.

    What do we need with an open-source, customizable system like LJ's, complete with lively, growing user communities? Who needs software that might foster an actual original thought? Interacting with strangers is so...icky! We can pay lots of money instead to record our sanitized inmost feelings on the AOL version.

    They're probably staying awake nights figuring out how to block links from independent systems like Moveable Type. Could Slashdot be far behind?

    Anne
  • by kobotronic (240246) on Saturday August 30, 2003 @05:20AM (#6831884)
    Really, I can't say I'm surprised that AOL would want to block image inline image traffic from blog sites, as that shit eats your bandwidth like nobody's business.

    I "run" a (dormant) photo website on a commercial hosting service. I pay about twenty bucks a month for the diskspace and capped bandwidth - a reasonable amount, I think, which allows me to serve my users without garish adbanner detritus.

    The ordinary site traffic is reasonably stable and keeps well below my bandwidth cap, but parasitic inline traffic comes on top of that, drawing close to redline.

    I'm very seriously considering blocking livejournal and any other blog site I can think of, as their users frequently inline my images, eating a little of my bandwidth each time one of their blog pages are loaded. I have some car photos which about fifty retarded pimply teens have inlined on their pages for apparently decorative purposes.

    I'm much too busy to go out and chase down every offender, but at the same time I've been reluctant to activate a simple block rule to get rid of the inline traffic once and for all. I guess I should follow AOL's example, eh?

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