Trackbacks: please explain

I have a problem understanding trackbacks. As far as I’m aware, they’re a way of officially linking to a blog post. But beyond that, I’m neither sure of how they work nor of their use. Please help ill-educated Dan by providing a comprehensive, layman’s description.


2 Responses to “Trackbacks: please explain”

  1. Rob on November 12th, 2007 20:14

    A trackback is a (possibly automated) notification sent from blog a to blog b when blog a links to one of blog b’s pages.

    In an automated system such as WordPress / MT the published post is inspected for URLs and those URLs (permalinks) are followed by the software on blog a where it will scan the page for auto discovery code for the track back address. Normally this takes the form of an RDF link but will always return a unique URL that can be “pinged” by blog a to notify blog b of the incoming link.

    This ping is normally in the form of an HTTP post request or XML RPC transmitting data such as the linking URL on blog a, the author of the post, etc. Blog B can then store and display this information next to the linked post.

    Trackbacks can also be achieved manually.

    Ping backs are also used (primarily by WordPress I believe) and do much the same thing but in a slightly different way.

    Because of the automated nature of the transaction, trackbacks became one of the main targets for spammers as they can get their evil links onto websites without requiring human intervention. Hence more technology has gone into preventing unauthorised trackbacks than has actually gone into developing what is, in essence, a very simple mechanism.

    More info on the different types of Trackback / Ping back can be found here:

  2. Jon Willis on November 12th, 2007 21:23

    Sometimes it is just better to be blissfully ignorant!

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