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Yahoo Messenger Blocking URLs? 231

wesleyye writes, "This morning I attempted to copy and paste a URL to two of my friends via Yahoo IM. But they kept complaining they did not see anything. Actually they saw all the text message lines except the line with the youtube URL. Is YIM blocking the competitor out?" We verified in this office that a fully formed URL could not be passed on YIM; changing the URL to read caused it to go through. Any other URL we tried worked. Update 10/10/2006 20:58 GMT by SM: Additional testing shows that there is something else going on for well formatted URLs. Even search results from had trouble when included with other text on the same line. Still awaiting comment from Yahoo!.
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Yahoo Messenger Blocking URLs?

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  • either that or slashdot is seriously FOS
    • Very strange.

      I just did some Googling and there doesn't seem to be anyone else talking about it, at least that I could find -- if Yahoo really was engaging in this, you'd think it would have created more of a hue and cry.

      I'm starting to suspect hoax, unless someone besides the article submitter can come up with evidence that it happened.

      I can't imagine that Yahoo would want to demonstrate that it has the capability of selectively filtering messages based on content. That just opens the door to lots of problematic demands -- e.g., why don't they block links to warez sites, or porn, or gambling, or (in other countries) various political websites. If you have that sort of capability, even if you don't want to use it for evil purposes, people are going to try and make you use it. So it's better just to never develop the capability in the first place, and if it is technically possible, never reveal that it can be done on demand, so that you can maintain your plausible deniability.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I don't know how I could "prove" it, but I can verify that this has indeed been happening for at least 4+ months*. Any message with in it was silently discarded, but,, etc. all went through fine. I suppose I could post chat logs from my two machines, but obviously I could have altered them to suit my own purposes...

        I just tested it now, and youtube URLs no longer appear to be filtered. However, they were as recently as two weeks ago.

        * In fact, I submitted this when I first n
        • I don't know how I could "prove" it, but I can verify that this has indeed been happening for at least 4+ months

          If what you say is true, than it can't have much to do with Google, eh? Maybe Yahoo want to work out some financial arrangement with YouTube, and YouTube doesn't want to play? I guess that's Yahoo's right. YouTube has "Jumped The Shark" anyway... ;)

        • by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:58PM (#16384447) Homepage
          You could always post a screenshot of the logs, since that seems to be admissable in court nowadays.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by s13g3 ( 110658 )
          Too many secrets! (good movie!)

          But seriously, is this a surprise? IIRC, wasn't Yahoo! quite complicit in filtering for The Great Firewall of China? I believe much more is being filtered, as I have had numerous messages to friends through YIM! simply disappear... I know, because the message not going thru caused me to either call, IRC, or yell across the apartment at the persons I was trying to message, and in all those cases, a URL was involved; thinking back on it, I wonder: has anyone else had a problem s
      • by joe_bruin ( 266648 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:13PM (#16383823) Homepage Journal
        Yahoo filters out certain messages, and it has nothing to do with YouTube. Near as I can figure, the algorithm is like this:

        If the first message you send to someone in a period of time contains only a URL (doesn't matter where it links to), it will be filtered out. I'm guessing this is to reduce spam.

        Way to overreact, Slashdot.
        • That actually makes a certain amount of sense. There were some worms floating around that would replicate themselves by sending an infected URL out as a message to all of your AIM contacts.

          There was a period of time a few years ago when I was getting 10-15 of these URL-messages a day. Didn't affect me any, because I used a Mac, but it might explain Yahoo's paranoia.

          However, I would find such a limitation incredibly annoying, since I often use IM applications to send people links. For example, let's say you'
        • Overreact? (Score:2, Interesting)

          by truthsearch ( 249536 )
          How is this overreacting? You're telling us everything in the article summary is correct, and even explaining why.
        • I have noticed something similar for months (at least 6 months) but it didn't quite work that way. It seems like random URL messages were dropped by Yahoo, not just the first message. I don't seem to be having the problem now, though, not for YouTube or any URLs.
        • From what I can tell, it seems like they are just blocking links which contain redirects. Links to movies do not work, but links to images do. All the redirect links I could think of for other sites seemed to work though, so it might have something to do with the depth of the redirect, or the media type of the final content.
          • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot.kadin@x[ ].net ['oxy' in gap]> on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:48PM (#16384317) Homepage Journal
            If true that's almost creepier, since it suggests that in addition to just scanning the message for content and looking for some simple strings ("http://", "google", "youtube") that it's actually following the link and analyzing the content at the end of it.

            I guess the test would be to find a link that's blocked, and a link that's allowed; then put each one into a TinyURL and see if the same rules apply, or if they're both rejected or both accepted.

            I agree with some other people though, based on other things that Yahoo has done, this seems like a provision that was probably originally implemented to stop the spread of spam and malware, not necessarily for any nefarious purpose. However, it's overly broad and IMO they'd be better without it, both for their own good and so as not to aggravate their users.
            • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
              Or just send a link to your own webserver and watch the logs. If something other than your friend accesses it immediately, you know it's checking that.
        • You know, I just about took your comment at face value until I started thinking about it. Is spam over IM, really, a big deal? I ask because I genuinely don't know.

          I use all of the major IM clients (Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Trillian) and to date, I have never received spam over IM. Not one. Ever. I do have my accounts setup so I can accept/deny friends but other than that, I have not done anything outside of the default setup.

          I realize that my anecdote does not speak to the general trend so I have to
          • I use Gaim and occasionally over Yahoo I get spambot's contacting me. They all put out the same lines, just with different names. They end up with a link to a webcam site.
            • I use Trillian and I get those spambots on Yahoo too. There's a couple of different lines, but all very similar. Also I use it to send links to my wife all the time (but on AIM). best way to send nice links.
          • Not one. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @09:37PM (#16386557) Journal
            I have a Jabber ID that comes out to be the same place as my email address, and I flaunt both on every web forum I'm ever on. The email address gets 30-60 spams per day (nicely filtered by BogoFilter), the Jabber ID doesn't get a single one.

            I have two AIM accounts, two MSN accounts, a Jabber ID, a Google Talk account (as in, a Jabber ID @, and a Yahoo account.

            I do occasionally pop into AIM chatrooms for a laugh, and those are completely dominated by spambots. But even there, the bots simply spam the channel in predictable ways, waiting for someone to IM them so they can reply with a URL, or tell you to look in their profile for a URL.

            I also used to have some people as friends who were not too careful with their security, and were thus loaded with spyware. Their spyware sent me spam occasionally, I told them about it, they didn't care, so I blocked them.

            Those are the only two places I've seen spam over IM. I mostly use Gaim on Linux and Adium on OS X, and I've also used Fire, iChat, and Yahoo natively on OS X. I only get unsolicited messages when I'm in chatrooms, or when I bother to try to make Qunu work. Neither of those are spam.

            Frankly, I think either spammers haven't discovered IM networks, or a lot of effort has been made to make it hard to spam through them. The centralized approach probably helps a lot, too -- you can't exactly implement a CAPTCHA for Jabber, since anyone can set up their own server and register as many users as they want, but it's easy to implement a CAPTCHA for any of the other systems I'm on. Still, I'm never comfortable with any organization silently acting on my behalf, with no way to control that -- it smacks of ISPs putting VOIP traffic on high priority and ignoring SKYPE traffic. If you want to block messages to me, at least give me the option to unblock them, and default to off (prompt me when I sign up). Same with traffic shaping -- let me control how my own traffic is shaped, or at least let me turn off the shaping.
        • Editor 1: I'm having basic tech support problems!!!
          Editor 2: Quick, post it to the home page!

        • This filtering is truly an incredibly bad idea, destroying much of the value of the chat service. The advantage of chat - so I thought - over email was that you had confirmation that the other person got the information. Now it turns out that the information might silently disappear, and that the two people at the two ends of the conversation might have an inconsistent view of facts.

          I am glad I stick to Google chat (out of laziness, since I have Gmail open anyway).

      • MSN Messenger has exactly the same problem. It seems to be endemic to the big services, I don't know why. The one I noticed it with was Facebook URLs - attempting to send these would result in the message being "unable to be delivered". I don't know if this is some kind of antispam system gone crazy or not, but Microsoft don't compete with Facebook so I guess it must be. Annoying as hell for sure.
        • No, this happens to me periodically with any old messages. I can then usually send it again and it gets through. I think it has more to do with Microsoft's network sucking than any actual filtering going on.
      • by technos ( 73414 )
        can't imagine that Yahoo would want to demonstrate that it has the capability of selectively filtering messages based on content.

        True. But that's probably not what's happening here.

        It was probably an overzealous formatting filter. Y'know, feed the thing ':)', get a smiley graphic, feed the thing &amp132/0000FF and get blue text, feed it some HTML and get something resembling the HTML. That stuff needs to be sanity checked, and dumped if it makes no sense.

        They also probably don't want people embedding th
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tackhead ( 54550 )
      Great_Jehovah (3984) writes:

      > either that or slashdot is seriously FOS

      Welcome to Slashdot! So, how much did you pay on eBay for that four-digit ID? :)

  • Ever heard of subtlety?
  • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @04:53PM (#16383489) Homepage Journal

    Before everyone gets to feeling sorry for Google for this grave injustice against them, you should realize that Yahoo is well within their rights to block anything they want to from going through their IM service, and once people figure out that it's broken as a result, they'll start using an alternative., say, Google talk [], maybe?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by spectral ( 158121 )
      Yahoo's been doing this for a while, with as well. My friend attempted to submit this MONTHS ago and it was rejected.
    • by catbutt ( 469582 )
      "within their rights" does not mean "not uncool". And it is within my rights to complain, loudly, about things that are simply uncool.

      BTW, I don't believe for a moment Yahoo did this on purpose to hurt the competition. They are smart enough to know that that would backfire 100 times worse than any competitive advantage they get.
    • It is well within Google's rights to censor search results, even in the US. It is well within MS's rights to have Internet Explorer block the Firefox download site. It is well within my rights to block the Microsoft IP ranges from my domain.

      "Within their rights" does not mean "reasonable". If my brother shows up at my door starving and shaking with cold, it is well within my rights to not do a thing for him, or maybe leave him outside and call an ambulence to prevent him from freezing. It would also be
  • by porkThreeWays ( 895269 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @04:53PM (#16383505)
    (yahoo guy in the back browsing slashdot at work)

    Shit! *click* Whew.
  • Politics? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xcrunner ( 969694 )
    Does this story really belong in Politics? I think it more has to do with competition then politics.
    • Re:Politics? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timster ( 32400 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:01PM (#16383629)
      I think it's partially intended as a hint about what a future without network neutrality might be like.
      • Free (as in freedom)? If you don't like the service Yahoo! provides, use their competitor.
        • Yahoo blocks random stuff. I believe AIM blocks some things, though I don't remember what, and besides, it's AOL. MSN blocks download.php.

          All we have left is gtalk. It would be awesome if gtalk was a viable replacement, but it's not -- it doesn't have video chat, doesn't have voice on Linux or OSX (that I know of), and there aren't enough people using it to completely boycott the others. All the same things apply to Jabber (since Gtalk is just centrallized, Google-ized Jabber).

          Regardless, no matter how
          • GTalk HAS voice and video. Also GTalk supports Server-to-Server, and has for a good while now. Also Jabber (and the GTalk server) won't be able to replace AIM/MSN/Yahoo if people refuse to ever use it because theres not enough people to completely replace all the others.

            Also I use AIM network (with the GAIM client, I wouldn't touch the official client with a 10 foot pole) and don't believe I have ever had a message filtered before.
      • I think it's partially intended as a hint about what a future without network neutrality might be like.
        I have seen the future, and it is inconvenient.

        Your sig is very apt.

  • Time for the foil hats, I guess.

    I know at work there were days that every URL except for would work and then it would come back. Some monkey having fun is all.

    And .. why aren't you using Jabber? I mean, really...
  • I'm guessing this block is happening in the YIM servers and not in the client (would be harder with all the 3rd party clients out there). So, the only option is to not use them? If they are going to filter your chat because of their Marketting departments idea of business, don't use them. There are many alternatives out there (GTalk, AIM, MSN...), why use someone that would even consider filtering their users messages?
    • I'm guessing this block is happening in the YIM servers and not in the client (would be harder with all the 3rd party clients out there).

      It would also be harder as this would probably require a client update. As most people don't always run the most recent version...

      More interesting is, if this is being run on the server side, then they are scanning every single message that goes through their servers. I wonder what else they are scanning for?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by denbesten ( 63853 )
        > More interesting is, if this is being run on the server side, then they are
        > scanning every single message that goes through their servers.
        > I wonder what else they are scanning for?

        Unfortunately, we know that they are not scanning for viruses, spyware or phishing.
      • The internet is not anonymous. Online actions can be monitored, filtered, and traced, especially by corporations who provide free "tubes" of communication. Ask Mark Foley. News at 11.
    • "There are many alternatives out there (GTalk, AIM, MSN...)"

      woa, woa... don't get crazy now. AIM may not block your URL but as soon as you install it ALL your base are belong to them.
  • News from the future: "Yahoo! Messenger blocks links from"
  • ... but I hate movie quotes, bring your own conclusions.
  • by Mwongozi ( 176765 ) <slashthree@davi[ ... g ['dgl' in gap]> on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @04:57PM (#16383577) Homepage
    Just tested this with a friend - the URLs get through fine when sent with Adium. So they're being blocked by the client software - not the network itself.
  • Blocking? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It would be more Yahoo's style if they just changed the URL to something else...

    (see [] for the history)
  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:01PM (#16383631) Journal
    Since they've done this before [], and now done it again, I assume they'll keep doing it until discovered with it in the act. In which case they'll call it a temporary glitch or something. They're skilled [] in this work internationally too, and are building quite a reputation with all this.
  • (Score:2, Interesting)

    Google video URLs are also blocked I guess. Isnt this antitrust?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Google video URLs are also blocked I guess. Isnt this antitrust?

      Umm, what are you proposing Yahoo has a monopoly on?

      • Maybe he means it goes against the trust people have in Yahoo's service. Or he thought we're talking about MSN.
      • Google video URLs are also blocked I guess. Isnt this antitrust?

        Umm, what are you proposing Yahoo has a monopoly on?
        Antitrust != monopoly

        Antitrust laws cover a variety of anti-competitive business practices. This includes, but is not limited to, monopolistic practices.
    • by Blob Pet ( 86206 )
      Yahoo is hardly a monopoly.
  • Skimming? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Any thoughts that YIM is skimming the URLs you type for personal use ?

    Maybe Youtube's links are being tracked as they are passed via YIM service ? Nothing says the messages are confidential. What's the likelyhood of this ? You could get customer data on the popularity of your viral (youtube) marketing , or make statistics as links traverse across these (IM) networks.

    We all know IMs aren't secure, but the thought of catching links with statistics drawn up by links being shared is a scary proposition.
    • In practice, of course, the sheer amount of data coming in could not possibly be parsed in human terms. I wouldn't be surprised if they aggregated links (by tracking outgoing behavior, not by scanning text, natch), but I'd be very surprised if they were tracking IPs, let alone keeping track of some random asshole's Friends list.
  • They haven't blocked [] yet!
  • Not just YouTube... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by g_attrill ( 203506 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:12PM (#16383809)
    I have recently noticed that many URLs sent in IM's will disappear without a trace. It seems that often the FIRST URL sent will not get through, but subsequent ones will. For example I will open an IM window, send a URL then say "did you get that?" after they don't reply, then the person will reply "did I get what?". The ones I can recall where links to Photobucket.

    I think they are basically trying to stop the IM spam where URLs are randomly sent to users.
  • IRC. We pass links back and forth like that all day.

    you could always try Tinyurl-ing [] them and see what happens.
  • It is pretty incredible but they also do this with your personal passwords and others' passwords. Try it! It must be a new safety feature. You can IM your passwords and they just don't go through. It also works with Yahoo email!!!!!!11111one2
  • WTF?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by delirium of disorder ( 701392 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:25PM (#16384005) Homepage Journal
    Why the hell aren't you using a free software chat client (so yahoo can't block anything client side), with encryption (so they can't block anything server side)? The are many benefits to free software and encryption beyond this particular situation. A proprietary chat client using a cleartext protocol just seams like idiocy from a security standpoint, especially in the age of Criminal/Corporate/ISP/NSA snooping.
  • by shark72 ( 702619 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:25PM (#16384009)
    Sending URLs of any sort as Yahoo! IMs has been unreliable for me and my friends for at least a year. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it; some URLs just don't go through. I've noticed it when both parties are using Yahoo! Messenger and also when one or both parties are using Adium, so unless the bug also exists within Adium, it may be a server-side issue.

    I've found that preceeding the URL with some random text (I end up typing "click here:" or something similar) addresses the issue. It's only when the IM line consists solely of a URL that it randomly goes into the bit bucket.
  • ...Yes, Yahoo has every right to accept or refuse stuff that works on its products. Heck, where in Yahoo messenger's licence on "Terms of Use" does it say that it [Yahoo] should accept every sh*t with its products?
  • Hold on a minute. Since when did Yahoo become Yahoo-China?
  • Ya well my trillian Pro install has a bias against url's in general. Any post of a URL with 32 characters or longer crashes the whole system! Must be that trillian is pushing tiny url....
  • by Bake ( 2609 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:47PM (#16384281) Homepage
    If you try to write a message to someone a URL that contains gallery.php or download.php, the entire message will not be delivered at all.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ThJ ( 641955 )
      I can personally attest to this as well. It is a known filed bug in GAIM but they can't fix it since it's server side.
  • by tacokill ( 531275 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:47PM (#16384299)
    I just tried this with a friend. I use Trillian. He uses Yahoo.

    We could both send Youtube links back and forth with no problem. We tried about 30 different times both with as well as deep links directly to videos. No problems whatsoever.

    Is anyone else able to reproduce this? Until so, I am calling bullshit.
    • by inKubus ( 199753 )
      April 1st is almost 6 months away! At least they didn't turn the damn background pink again.

    • i've had problems with this any number of times, especially recently.

      it's totally random when it will show up, i've sent two links to imageshack in a row and had one not work and one work. it's not even always the first one either.

      as has been mentioned already, putting "link:" before the link or any other normal text fixes it 100% of the time.
  • 3 words.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by golgoj4 ( 993133 ) <> on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @05:56PM (#16384435) Homepage
    porn bot spam. I noticed yahoo started doing this with most urls and that i had to break them up for them to show up. I think this was in response to all the phishing and general scams via links posted. I dont know if youTube should feel even blocks my website when I try and prove I have a job ;)
  • I think the actual problem is Yahoo's way of line wrapping long chunks of text.

    Basically, their system truncates the url when it line wraps the text. Nothing more...
  • Just a bug. The CIA will log it and fix it. Move on and pretend it didnt happen... or else.
  • Interesting Addition (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @06:40PM (#16384855)
    Get a chat client that adds an MD5 signature. It could tell you if the message was altered, unless they recompute the MD5 as well.
  • AIM blocks URLs too (Score:4, Interesting)

    by elyograg ( 15945 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @06:40PM (#16384869)
    I have found that an AIM chatroom will not accept certain URLs. It eats any message containing something it doesn't like. One notable example is anything from None of the URLs that trigger this behabior make any kind of sense to me. If you run any of the banned links through tinyurl, it is allowed through.

    A direct IM of the problem link outside the chatroom will make it through just fine.
  • I noticed this happens on Slashdot too, for example when I try to say it gets filtered out and never appears in the post. Neither does or .
  • I guess I've just never seen that particular abbreviation for Yahoo Messenger, but it sort of sounds like an IM client for furries [] to me.
  • My co-worker and I can reproduce this claim. Not sure it is intentional though. I am using GAIM on Linux and he is using the Yahoo IM client on windows and any message that contains [] either directions is not going through...Tried it with my brother who is using GAIM on Linux as well (after disabling off the record messaging) and the message went through fine both directions. Weirdness...
  • ...and they picked jabber [] for a reason. I think Google puts the philosophy behind Jabber best in their Google Talk FAQ []. Long story short, if you all used Jabber, this wouldn't ever have been an issue to begin with...

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.