“”I don't really like you saying his name, because it gives him the oxygen of publicity and I'm not happy with him having the oxygen of oxygen.
|—Linda Smith on the principle behind donotlink.com|
donotlink.com is a defunct, offline URL-shortening service with an emphasis on making sure that the linked websites (or webshites) do not enjoy an improvement in search ranking as a result. Ordinary inbound links to a site will (in time, in theory) cause search engines to make them more visible in general search results. Where the website in question carries content that is untrue, illegal or generally objectionable, using this service might not deny them the oxygen of publicity but it will at least leave them slightly short of breath.
Note that the site does get a page hit and its ads displayed (unless you're adblocking).
Other URL-shorteners or the venerable rel="nofollow" can be pressed into a similar role, but were not designed with this purpose in mind. donotlink.com uses multiple methods to prevent search engine robots from following the redirected link, and boasts of continuing efforts to prevent robots that don't play by the rules from getting around them. There's no way for a user to know for sure how effective all these measures are, or if they work at all, but if the alternative is giving Naturalnews more exposure without a fight, well, sensible people will at least give it a try.
Once you have followed a donotlink URL, you end up in a frame with donotlink gadgets at the top. The frame can disrupt some style and display elements of the underlying site, although in some cases that might be preferable to the site's layout as designed. The gadget lets you flag the link as one of a number of categories (nonsense, offensive, etc.) which are then reported to users visiting the site through donotlink.com.
donotlink.com's main page also allows comments on links the site has stored, in the grand tradition of the bottom half of the internet, although in this case the facility seems to be barely used at all.
An unpleasant side effect is that once inside the DoNotLink frame, you have no way to determine the actual URL of the website you are on, and clicking on links will keep the newly opened pages also inside DoNotLink's frame. (Opening a link in a new tab will fix the latter problem.) Like with other URL shortener services, there's also no way to determine where you will end up before clicking a DoNotLink-ed link, though after a click, the site displays for a brief period of time a warning screen with the target of the redirect and its URL, so in theory you may be able to close the window before the target page loads. They could have put a "Stop" button, though.
As of September, 2017, an equivalent site, donotlink.it, is in service, and its code available on GitHub.
- donotlink.com Offline
- Skeptical Software Tools endorses its use
- donotlink.it Online (accessed 24-09-2017)
- Aside from other considerations, this can be exploited for phishing and other hoaxes - copying the layout of a website on another host is relatively easy.