What are Pingbacks and Trackbacks?

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Although there are some technical differences between pingbacks and trackbacks (such as the latter containing more information and uses a different communication technology), the general concept is the same.   And in this introductory article, we will use the word pingback even though the discussion may still be relevant to trackbacks.

Taking a concrete example, if you run a WordPress blog, you may get an email notice from WordPress that you got a pingback.  You got a pingback because another website out there on the web has linked to your blog post.  Take as an example, let’s say that Bob’s Blog has linked to your post.   And WordPress can detect this and notifies you of this (assuming both your blog and the other referring blog has both pingbacks turned on).

In the email notice and in the WordPress admin, you will have the option of accepting, trashing, or spamming the pingback.  If you accept the pingback/trackback, then an excerpt of Bob’s blog that has a link to your post will be automatically inserted into the comment section of your post (assuming you have the right settings turned on).   But before you accept such pingback/trackbacks, you need to manually verify that Bob’s blog is in fact a legitimate and worthwhile post.  Because pingbacks/trackbacks can be faked and are often used by spammers hoping to get noticed or get a backlink from you.

If in fact the pingback/trackback is from a spammer, then you want select the option of trashing it or spamming it.  The difference being that the latter notifies the spamming system (if one is turned on), and the former does not.   In both case, the excerpt will not be shown on your blog post.

In any case, whatever is posted on Bob’s blog will continue to remain posted on Bob’s blog irregardless of whether you decide to accept, trash, or spam the pingback/trackback.  In a sense, the pingback is just letting you know that someone linked to you.  You control whether you want to link back to him via the display of the excerpt or not.  But you can not control who links to you.

If the excessive notifications of pingbacks/trackbacks annoys you, there are settings which can turned them off.

Although, I have used WordPress in this example, many other blogging systems also have this pingback/trackback feature. In fact, trackbacks were originally developed by the creators of MovableType, known as “Six Apart”.  Pingbacks in some ways are designed to solve some of the drawbacks of trackbacks.

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