What is Trackback? July 27, 2002 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Can someone please explain to me what exactly this trackback thing does?
posted by charlesv to MetaFilter-Related at 11:01 AM (14 comments total)

In Movabletype, when I link to a blog entry, I can opt to "ping" it by including its trackback ping URL in my blog post. Then, when I save the blog post, it sends the ping, which shows up as a trackback entry on the original blog.

It's a bit difficult to explain, but the concept is pretty simple to understand after the first few pings. Here's the MT Trackback blog.
posted by brownpau at 11:10 AM on July 27, 2002

Put simply, it keeps track of the links other sites have made to a given thread. Currently the other sites have to be running Movable Type.
posted by kindall at 11:31 AM on July 27, 2002

In basic terms, TrackBack provides an open way for anyone to post stuff onto your weblog if they are smart enough to construct a URL.

I will not provide any live examples, but it is as easy as..


This enforces my humble opinion that trackback should operate on some sort of 'trusted poster' scheme or allow entries to be moderated before they are added to a site.
posted by wackybrit at 11:33 AM on July 27, 2002

Ahh...thanks for the info.
posted by charlesv at 12:17 PM on July 27, 2002

>Currently the other sites have to be running Movable Type.

Actually, anyone can implement TrackBack (otherwise, how could MetaFilter be running it?). I've enabled TB on my weblog and written a kind of homebrew tutorial about what's involved in setting up TB to work with CMS's.
posted by hit-or-miss at 1:58 PM on July 27, 2002

Well, okay, currently the other sites have to be running Movable Type or be admined by someone who knows enough programming to implement it himself. In reality, that means that 99.44% of sites that can send TrackBack pings are running Movable Type.

So far as I can tell, BTW, MetaFilter merely receives pings sent by TrackBack-capable sites; it doesn't send them.
posted by kindall at 2:21 PM on July 27, 2002

I have to disagree. You can create a trackback link just by entering the correct stuff into a GET call via the URL as shown above ;-) It's not rocket science. Of course, it's not really the proper way of doing it either, and could be very easily abused.
posted by wackybrit at 2:35 PM on July 27, 2002

The whole trackback concept is easily abused by its nature. It essentially lets people post things anonymously to any site that implements it.

Perhaps it should be extended to allow simple user/password authentication, so sites can choose to only let registered members post a trackback entry. It wouldn't be very difficult to do, assuming the site already has a user database of some sort.
posted by whatnotever at 3:07 PM on July 27, 2002

Instead of being extended to acommodate user/pass, it could just use the standard HTTP authentication that's built into the handling of the GET requests that it processes.

Ben and Mena will be documenting these things more in the future. Combine that with the stuff Matt's done (linked above) and that concern will probably be addressed.
posted by anildash at 4:03 PM on July 27, 2002

anildash, HTTP authentication would work, but it would be harder to do than just hooking into a site's existing user db, both on the client side (query strings are much easier to do than HTTP auth) and the server side (most site don't use HTTP auth, so it would require more than just code changes).

I'm not knocking the idea or anything. I like the concept, but the implementation needs a bit of polish. I'm sure it's getting there.
posted by whatnotever at 4:19 PM on July 27, 2002

it just struck me that you could do something similar by using globally unique tags and relying on google. once google has indexed this page then presumable this link will come back here.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:54 AM on July 28, 2002

I first became aquainted with trackback when people were playing the Beatles' White Album backwards and found out that Paul was dead. Many old and new examples of trackbacking here.
posted by Mack Twain at 8:21 AM on July 28, 2002

: a little nonplussed : I just tested "trackback" on this thread. The MeFi page is now listing the first two lines of my journal entry, which has *nothing* to do with the MeFi thread at all. So -- what's the etiquette here, if one tends to write about/link to many things in one entry? Is the solution to put the "trackbacked" item in the first paragraph, or make a single entry for each item you're pinging? I'd rather not change my writing style strictly for "trackback," but at the same time, I didn't realize people would have to read through everything else to find the "pie" at the end. :P And, as "trackback" becomes more popular, what happens if you wish to point to more than one thing in an entry -- *two* trackbacks?

(I'm sorry if I'm chasing the obvious -- I'm a bit muddled this morning...)
posted by metrocake at 9:58 AM on July 28, 2002


The TrackBack ping uses MoveableTypes "excerpt" data as the text in the TB box- if you don't create a unique excerpt for your entry, MT automatically uses the first 20 words of each entry as the excerpt. If you're pinging Metafilter, and want the trackback to have the text from your entry that relates to the MeFi post, you need to enter it in the "Excerpt" box manually. Here's an example...
posted by evanizer at 12:03 PM on July 28, 2002

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