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What are blind links?

Summary

A blind link is a link on a web page that does not take you to the web address (URL) that it is supposed to. This article will tell you how a blind link works and how to avoid them.

How a blind link works

In a previous article (link) I explained how to tell if a link in an email was real or not just by pointing at it. This technique is not guaranteed to work on web pages because there are a lot of fancy ways to manage links on web pages such as using a scripting language like Javascript, which offers the ability to create blind links.

In essence a blind link works by appearing to be a link to a particular web address, while not offering you any way of actually knowing where the link will take you until you click on it. It can display one link address on the web page, another (or the same) address when you point at it, and can take you to a completely different address when you click on it.

How can you spot blind links?

If a blind link has been implemented using a web page scripting language such as Javascript then you can determine where the link will take you with a little technical know-how. Web browsers will let you view the source code that makes up the web page you are looking at by selecting View Source from the menu. Then all you need do is search for the code for the link in question and work out if it is going to take you to where you want to go.

Of course not all blind links are implemented in this way. Some use server-side code so you cannot view the source code in the browser window. You can however spot these type of links by pointing to them as they will generally be in a similar format to: www.somewebsite.com/path/?=123456. If you trust the site then click on a link, but if you get redirected somewhere other than where you were expecting then you know that they are employing blind links, so don't click on any more links on that site as you never know where they might take you! I would even go as far as adding that site to a blacklist (blocked list) on your PC.

Conclusion

The use of blind links is considered very bad practice among the web development community. It is employed as a way to make money by increasing traffic to a particular site by tricking people into clicking on a link to something they want to view, then redirecting them to somewhere they more than likely do not want to go (or to something that they probably dont want to appear on their screens). This technique is apparently employed by a great many illegal software and adult content web sites, and their partner web sites that redirect to them in exchange for money or link-back traffic.

So be wary of any site that uses blind links!

If you have any feedback regarding this article, or you have a suggestion for a new article, or just want to say thanks for the info then feel free to drop me an email.

Article date: 25th January 2011

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