June 17, 2010

LiveJournal are annoying me sufficiently that I’m seriously considering moving this blog to another site. I’d appreciate recommendations for alternative sites or blogging software.

What they’ve done

As jld explains in more detail, LiveJournal are including code from Driving Revenue Inc., an advertising company, in every page they serve (including friends-locked postings). When you move your mouse over a link, the code tells Driving Revenue’s site, outboundlink.me, what the link is. Their site responds with a new link. If you click, your browser ends up where Driving Revenue said to go, which may or may not be where you though you’d end up.

The point of all this messing about is to make money from affiliate links. Some sites will give you money for sending traffic their way. These sites know it’s you sending them traffic because they give you an affiliate code. When you link to that site from your own, you append the affiliate code to the link. Driving Revenue re-writes those links so they’ll make them money instead, and passes a cut to LJ.

If you’ve got a free account on LJ, re-writing links would be fair enough. One of the ways LJ covers the cost of free accounts is through advertising. But I’m paying LJ money so this blog won’t have adverts on it. If they’re going to break that contract, I don’t want to pay them any more money.

Also, even for free accounts, the way LJ/Driving Revenue have implemented this is very dodgy.

Why it’s dodgy

Firstly, this is bad for privacy and security. LJ are disclosing any link you happen to move your mouse over to Driving Revenue, so I hope nothing you link to in your locked entries is confidential. Worse, the way this has been implemented gives Driving Revenue the same authority as LJ: they can more or less do what they like, including stealing your cookies and impersonating you. Even if Driving Revenue aren’t malicious, they are incompetent ( as described below), and security problems at Driving Revenue now potentially become security problems at LJ. LJ went to a lot of trouble to lock down this sort of problem a while ago. Now they’ve given away the keys to the kingdom.

Secondly, Driving Revenue Inc are incompetent. They’ve had multiple attempts at the script now, and it’s still not right. You might have noticed that when you move your mouse over a link on LJ and quickly click on it, nothing happens. This seems to be because moving the mouse starts the process described above, and clicks don’t “take” until it’s finished. On top of this, the script is too zealous. It re-writes links in a way which breaks them (for example, andrewducker recently linked to this article: if you click the link, you’ll end up somewhere random on the same site).

What I might do about it

I’m using Adblock to block the script, so I’m not affected by it, but people visiting my blog are. This isn’t what I’m paying for, so, unless LJ sort it out soon, I’m off. Wherever I end up, I’ll keep reading my friend list here, and I’ll probably cross-post and direct comments to my new home.

The traditional thing to do is to flounce to Dreamwidth, but that seems to be intended for people who enjoy mannerist identity politics and writing about how their fanfiction in which Snape vigorously rogers Harry Potter will inevitably smash the kyriarchy. But seriously, Dreamwidth is in active development and they’re doing some cool stuff, though I’m a bit worried they’ll run out of money. I don’t want to move again, so I’m looking for somewhere stable, preferably under my own domain.

So, I’ve been playing with WordPress, which I’ve installed on the hosting account for my own domain. It looks quite nice. The only downside is a half-hearted implementation of threaded comments: WordPress allows threads up to 10 comments deep and then just stops letting people reply, rather than doing something sensible like folding them. It’s possible to use third party commenting sites like Disqus or Intense Debate with it, though, and those seem to do threading better. Edited: WordPress does “proper” blog stuff like comment feeds and pingbacks, which I’m currently doing with Python scripts and gaffer tape on my LJ, which also gives it an advantage over Dreamwidth.

I’ve got access to scripting languages and MySQL, and I presume there are other blogging packages out there: any recommendations?