We all know hotlinking is a bad thing. Hotlinking uses up someone else’s bandwidth, which costs them money. It takes away from any profit they might make on ads, because you’re not going to their site. It removes their credit from images. So why did Google decide to hotlink when they made their faster image search?
This is what the new image search looks like:
I’ll admit, that looks pretty nifty. It’s a fast way to see images. But it’s also a fast way to lose attribution. Here’s what just the new image box looks like.
This image now loads ‘seemingly’ locally. It’s totally a part of Google, though, there’s no reference back to how the site looks (it used to be an overlay). In fact, most people will just see the image, copy if they want, and move on to the next site. No one has any reason to dig deeper and to visit the image’s page.
By contrast, the thumbnail images you see on Google, if you viewed source, look like this:
https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQPNtMLkk8rwj3lLv6a2kEQ8_eo6BuiUZYn3N5z3cbMu6rVPo3Xkw If you go to gstatic.com though, all you get is a 404 error page, but it’s pretty easy to find out this is where Google saves all their static content. Including images. These thumbnails are in moderate to low quality, and if that was all Google did, show small, iffy, thumbnails and redirect people to the real site, that would be great. Instead, now they actively hotlink from you. Oh yes, that full image you saw in my screenshot was directly linked to the owner’s media file.
The first thing I did after noticing this was to add the following to my robots.txt:
User-agent: Googlebot-Image Disallow: /
Those directions are right from Google, who doesn’t even pitch you any reason to why you wouldn’t want to do this. Normally they’ll tell you ‘You can, we’d rather you didn’t because of XYZ, but here it is anyway.’ This time, it’s a straight up ‘Here’s how.’ I find that rather telling.
Naturally I went on to read why Google thought this was a good idea
The following points are all reasons Google thinks this is better.
We now display detailed information about the image (the metadata) right underneath the image in the search results, instead of redirecting users to a separate landing page.
The first part about this, the detailed information, is great. Having the meta-data right there without redirecting to the separate page like the used to, with the data on the side that no one read, is an improvement. Thank you for that.
We’re featuring some key information much more prominently next to the image: the title of the page hosting the image, the domain name it comes from, and the image size.
Again, this is great. I think that the data should be more visible than it is, especially the ‘This image may be copyright protected’ stuff. Considering Google won’t allow you to use ads if you use copyright protected material (which they claim I do here, by the way), they really have a higher measure of standard to live up to when it comes to informing people of the stick by which they are measured.
The domain name is now clickable, and we also added a new button to visit the page the image is hosted on. This means that there are now four clickable targets to the source page instead of just two. In our tests, we’ve seen a net increase in the average click-through rate to the hosting website.
I can see this being true. Again, the links should be more obvious, and really they should link not to the image directly, but the contextual page in all cases. Traffic is important, and if you send people to the image page where they don’t see the ads, you’re causing them to lose money. So the idea behind this part is really nice, and I’m for it, it just needs some kick-back improvements. Google should give people a good reason to go to the parent site. And this next item is where they fail…
The source page will no longer load up in an iframe in the background of the image detail view. This speeds up the experience for users, reduces the load on the source website’s servers, and improves the accuracy of webmaster metrics such as pageviews. As usual, image search query data is available in Top Search Queries in Webmaster Tools.
And now we hit the problem. While this is true (it will be both faster and use less of my bandwidth while decreasing load), it’s still showing my image off my servers! Worse? It’s got the full sized image from my server, which means if I have a 4 meg photo (and I do), they’ll be pulling all 4 megs down, and the reader can just right-click and save. They never need to touch my site.
As Bill and Ted would say, Bogus.
Go back to how Google shows thumbnails. They have their own, lower-rez version. I regularly post other people’s images on a site, and when I do, I purposefully keep a lower resolution version on my site, and link to them for the best. Why? Because it’s their image. They did the work, they made it, I should honor them and respect them, and be a good net-denizen. Google’s failing on that.
For me their search has always been a little questionable for images. Now it’s outright evil.