Pingbacks, Trackbacks, and CSS-Tricks

Earlier today, a post was published on popular site CSS-Tricks that referenced my site and a post I’d written. My site has never been especially popular, and isn’t usually picked up in this way.

I immediately started getting something I haven’t gotten in ages. Pingbacks and Trackbacks.  Now, I spent a time as the Pingbacks and Trackbacks component maintainer for WordPress. I’d very much hoped we could iterate to make these features more than just another ignored piece of WordPress.

Of course, I was more interested in their successor, webmentions, which adopts many of the same principles, but…offers some important changes, most significantly of which, people are still working on it.

In response to the CSS Tricks post, I got 28 pingbacks and trackbacks. I don’t turn them off on my site, because disabling the ability to receive them would also, with the current webmention configuration, disable that too.

But I think I will be adjusting it to immediately remove Trackbacks. Trackbacks have no validation, and I have not ever gotten a legitimate one. WordPress doesn’t allow you to selectively remove one protocol or the other.

Pingbacks, as they do have validation, mean a site actually does have to link to you, not just say it does. But I looked at the quality of those. CSS Tricks seems to have a lot of people republishing its content without attribution.

Some of these, actual WordPress sites, probably running a scraping plugin, don’t even give authorship and the author is set as the admin account. So, not exactly impressive…although one version did seem to be translated into Spanish.

So, does that mean the only sites still sending pingbacks are sites that wholesale copy other content and put it out there? That has a bunch of different problems with it. It makes me ask if I should turn off pingbacks as well as disused by anyone interested in quality content.

There is nothing inherently wrong with reposting content…although I am a big believer in proper attribution. When I post about an article, I usually only share a summary and a link.

So, I hadn’t gotten a pingback in over a year, and when I did, it was notifications of this.

Maybe I will just stick with webmentions and abandon all similar protocols. Eventually, it could in theory have the same problem as pingbacks…namely, less utility. There have been discussions about that from the beginning. But the way that is solved is by iterating. And no one is doing that on pingbacks right now.

I did consider some other choices. I did attend a discussion a few years on different levels of display based on trust. So, an untrusted source, till trusted, unless you prefer moderation, might appear as an additional number displayed in a counter on your post. As it grew in trust, it might add displaying avatars or other information. That might allow me to keep offering the service.

But, unless someone can show me an example of a quality pingback, probably better to shut it down.

Decided to do a run through the projects I maintain, mostly WordPress plugins, and see if I can do some bug fixes and tweaks before tackling something larger.  It’s a bit late for spring cleaning, but…