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Alert! GeoCities Blocks Remote Loading


By Nancy McPoland
(March 4, 2001)

WebTV users have alerted us to a change in the Terms of Service [TOS] for Yahoo! Geocities accounts that has ended the practice of "remote loading" of images and other files from the popular homepage service accounts. Many readers wrote and complained that images and music that they use for their WebTV HTML e-mail signatures were not appearing. These files were stored in user webspace on the free Geocities homepage servers and were not loading.

The reason for the loading failure stems from a change that Yahoo! Geocities has made in their rules. In the updated Terms of Service Agreement that a new user must agree to in the signup process, there now appears this statement:

[You agree to not use the Service to:]
o) use your home page (or directory) as storage for remote loading or as a door or signpost to another home page, whether inside or beyond Yahoo GeoCities.

Yahoo! Geocities management detailed their reasons for the change in this statement found in the Frequently Asked Questions in the Help Section of the member's area:

Why won't my files load when I try to link to them outside of GeoCities?

Unfortunately, this is not allowed. We've made changes to our system that prohibit certain files from loading outside of our domain (geocities.com). This means that some of the files stored in your Yahoo! GeoCities directory can't be referenced directly from links outside of geocities.com. However, these files will remain accessible from any geocities.com web page.

This change ensures that our resources are supporting visitors to Yahoo! GeoCities web pages and providing them with the best possible experience.

Please note: In compliance with our Yahoo! GeoCities Terms of Service (Section 5), we do not allow our members to use Yahoo! GeoCities primarily to store files for exclusive use at another site. Any violation of our Terms of Service may result in removal of your account.

If you want to link to files in your Yahoo! GeoCities directory from outside of our domain, you can bypass this limitation by linking to the entire HTML page rather than to specific images or other files within the page.

The practice of remote loading is a controversial one, with which GeoCities and other free homepage providers including Tripod and WebTV itself have long had problems. In February of last year, GeoCities ended the ability to remote load images from outside GeoCities into GeoCities pages. Users could no longer link to an image on a page outside GeoCities to display on their GeoCities pages. Many WebTV users found themselves in violation of GeoCities' TOS and had their accounts terminated as a result of what is known as a "TOS Sweep."

Web pages and email that are remote loading require every server that holds some of the files to be contacted and to respond with the files, before the page can be completed. This causes pages to load very slowly, and to display "broken images" if the files have been moved or deleted, or the web server doesn't answer.

GeoCities and other Internet services providers object to remote loading because it forces them to host Internet traffic for which they get no benefit. Bandwidth is expensive, and providers don't want to pay for storing files that are being loaded to some other location. The images and music being displayed in WebTV e-mail don't benefit GeoCities, who makes its money by page views and ad views for the web pages on its servers.

In their "TOS Sweep" last year, GeoCities identified scores of users who were remote linking to other Internet sites and shut them down. At the time, they did not take issue with the bandwidth lost to images on their own servers being remote loaded. Many WebTV users at that time transloaded or had computer users upload their graphics to their GeoCities accounts in order to remote load from GeoCities. This most recent change in the TOS now prohibits remote loading from GeoCities as well.

GeoCities rival Tripod took action against remote loading back in August, 1999. Tripod's response to the remote loading practice was to institute an interstitial page which would pop up when an image was called from one of their servers.

Some WebTV users have found a WebTV-friendly service for their homepage needs and remote loading for their e-mail files at WTV-Zone. This service, which is not affiliated with WebTV or with Net4TV, charges a small fee which can be billed quarterly or annually. Pricing ranges from $5.00 month for 15 Mb of storage space to $!5.00 a month for 50 Mb. WTV-Zone allows remote loading to and from their service, but does restrict file size to less than 300 K to conserve bandwidth and keep their servers up to speed.

For more information about the remote loading controversy, see our previous Net4TV Voice articles:

How Linking and Bandwidth Work

Tripod Defends Against Linking By WebTV and e-Bay Users

All About "Remote Loading" and How to End It

TOS and Remote Loading Questions and Answers


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