Affected by the New WordPress Cloaking Policy?

54 replies
Blair Williams, creator of Pretty Link, which is used to shorten links, has posted this on his blog 9/24/10:

"This morning Pretty Link disappeared from the WordPress.org plugin repository because it didn't comply with a new, apparently undocumented policy that doesn't allow plugins to cloak links. Pretty Link wasn't the only plugin affected by this policy change, wordpress.org removed all plugins from the repository that allowed users to cloak links."

I'm reading thru his comments and trying to figure things out a bit.

So far, I'm not affected (not using the pro version either) and all my links work... but I am concerned...

What is your understanding and have you been affected by the WordPress change?
#affected #cloaking #policy #pretty link #wordpress
  • Profile picture of the author Ahmad Salem
    That's ridiculous, and hopefully people can petition against that or something.

    But in all reality, it isn't a huge deal. One can still upload manually.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alan Petersen
    I stopped using plugin's to cloak my links because twice the developers pulled the plug on it (one was paid). With all the Wordpress upgrades they couldn't keep up and my links would die.

    I've heard good things about pretty links but I will no longer leave something as important as my affiliate links to the hands of plugins.

    Wordpress has no love-loss for affiliate marketers so I'm not really surprised they did this. I'm inferring this from the blogs they zap on their wordpress.com network and these were great blogs that were popular with a lot of fans, traffic, PR, the whole nine-yards.

    So it's best to self host your affiliate linking, your blogs, etc.
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    • Originally Posted by Alan Petersen View Post

      I stopped using plugin's to cloak my links because twice the developers pulled the plug on it (one was paid). With all the Wordpress upgrades they couldn't keep up and my links would die.

      I've heard good things about pretty links but I will no longer leave something as important as my affiliate links to the hands of plugins.

      Wordpress has no love-loss for affiliate marketers so I'm not really surprised they did this. I'm inferring this from the blogs they zap on their wordpress.com network and these were great blogs that were popular with a lot of fans, traffic, PR, the whole nine-yards.

      So it's best to self host your affiliate linking, your blogs, etc.
      You've raised some important points here THANKS

      Indeed many WP plug-ins have not been adapted to the frequent WP upgrades and become unusable

      From my experience links must be monitored manually because the web is still too unstable to be able to rely on automated link checking.
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      PLEASE NO AFFILAITE / REDIRECT LINKS IN YOUR SIGNATURE!

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  • Profile picture of the author LondonPaladin
    You can just use a plugin like affiliate link bomber which is external to wordpress
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  • Profile picture of the author pcpupil
    I wonder if the big (G) had anything to do with this?
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  • Profile picture of the author mahesh2k
    You can use simple-url's from Studiopress designers. It is free of cost and like other products from them it is Wordpress Policy approved.
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    • Profile picture of the author Nathan Hangen
      Can't you just download the plugin from their website?

      Pretty Link WordPress Plugin | Blair Williams

      @mojojuju - far worse, socialists.

      As long as they keep updating, you'll be fine. They can't reach into your code and pull it out.

      I don't really see how they could alter the core do disrupt it either, and I'm not sure they have a legal right to do so anyway.
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  • Profile picture of the author mookinman
    So let me just ask - Are my links still working on sites? Or do I need to go and manually check each one of them?
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  • Profile picture of the author ~kev~
    Visitors should have the right to see the real link, and not a cloaked link before they click on it

    I disagree with the whole concept of cloaking links to start with, so I'am glad wordpress took the action it did.
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    • Profile picture of the author cindybidar
      Originally Posted by ~kev~ View Post

      Visitors should have the right to see the real link, and not a cloaked link before they click on it

      I disagree with the whole concept of cloaking links to start with, so I'am glad wordpress took the action it did.
      It's not always about trying to hide the link. Cloaking is an unfortunate term, IMO. It's about the ability to change a link easily, like when the vendor changes their affiliate system and all your links quit working.
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    • Profile picture of the author kindsvater
      Originally Posted by ~kev~ View Post

      Visitors should have the right to see the real link, and not a cloaked link before they click on it
      Since when do VISITORS get RIGHTS on MY website?

      If I want to use a cloaked link for tracking, to hide an affiliate link, to make it look nicer, or because I just feel like it, that is strictly my business. No one is forcing any visitor to click on a link.
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      • Profile picture of the author mojojuju
        I have a feeling that the people behind Wordpress are a bunch of damn hippies.
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        :)

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        • Profile picture of the author TelZilla
          Originally Posted by mojojuju View Post

          I have a feeling that the people behind Wordpress are a bunch of damn hippies.
          Anti-Capitalist hippies at that.

          The may make easy to use software, but their business ideals leave a lot to be desired.
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          Don't get so wrapped up in making money that you forget the important things in life.
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          • Profile picture of the author Alan Petersen
            I'm amused that a thread about link cloaking and Wordpress/open source is turning all political. Careful, because political topics are not allowed so you might get this thread zapped.

            Simple link redirection is lumped as link cloaking and it's really not the same thing.

            Folks should stick with simple php redirection to make your links shorter and so you can track the hits. Most of the major affiliate networks do not have an issue with that. It's when you start using iframes and hiding the destination URL on your visitors browser that you're running afoul of TOSes.
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            • Profile picture of the author eflo
              damn - I was just about to install pretty links.
              Thanks for the heads up!

              Also, I've been doing a lot of posting on Craigslist for work related stuff. CL doesn't allow bit.ly links. (I was trying to shorten a google doc form link)
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        • Profile picture of the author mojojuju
          Originally Posted by Richard Odell View Post

          The Hippies wouldn't have given a stuff about it...

          The pc purist Nazi's will...

          It's gotten to the point that the hippies and the nazis are indistinguishable.
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          :)

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      • Profile picture of the author Istvan Horvath
        Originally Posted by kindsvater View Post

        Since when do VISITORS get RIGHTS on MY website?
        That is exactly what the owners of the wordpress.org site said, too: since when can anybody tell me what kind of plugins to host on my site?

        On their own site they have the right to host only plugins they like. And all you, visitors, can go and get your plugins wherever you want. Anybody thinks different?

        This shouldn't even be a thread in this forum...
        People have too much time; that's how they come up with nonsense thread titles like this one (new wordpress cloaking policy... my a$$)

        WP never said you cannot use any plugin or cloaking or whatever on your own blog. They just will not host that kind of plugins/scripts.
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    • Profile picture of the author 4morereferrals
      Originally Posted by ~kev~ View Post

      Visitors should have the right to see the real link, and not a cloaked link before they click on it

      I disagree with the whole concept of cloaking links to start with, so I'am glad wordpress took the action it did.
      Then why use anchor text in your sig file?
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    • Profile picture of the author Black Hat Cat
      Banned
      Originally Posted by ~kev~ View Post

      Visitors should have the right to see the real link, and not a cloaked link before they click on it

      I disagree with the whole concept of cloaking links to start with, so I'am glad wordpress took the action it did.
      Maybe you can petition the government, and they can amend the constitution to end this horrible injustice.
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    • Profile picture of the author Scott Voss
      Hi Kev,
      I am with you about the cloaking of links when they are of nefarious nature.

      But sometimes a cloaked link is simply just a way to redirect and track referrals. As a perfect example, on your survivalist forum your banner links are not directly taking the person to the site. Rather, it takes them through a complex url (which admittedly does have the url hidden in there along with 2 additional urls).

      These kinds of redirects are perfectly understood by the person clicking them that they will be taken to another site. Just like when I use Pretty Link to take people to a download link for a free product on my site, to my twitter page or even to a post here on the warrior forum.

      Personally, I am disappointed that WP did this. I understand why and it is a shame that because people abuse the system, others have to take the "punishment" as well.

      -Scott

      P.S.
      Kev, I checked out your forum and I am glad I did! I have a big tie to disaster preparedness and saw you have a sub forum specifically on that. I am going to check it out.



      Originally Posted by ~kev~ View Post

      Visitors should have the right to see the real link, and not a cloaked link before they click on it

      I disagree with the whole concept of cloaking links to start with, so I'am glad wordpress took the action it did.
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    • Profile picture of the author webdesk
      I guess many people share your view Kev. There are sites where you type the cloaked link in and they will bring back the full link so if it is a must, the cloaked links can be checked before you click!

      One such site is LongURL | The Universal Way to Expand Shortened URLs

      I know it works for bitly and prettylink!


      Originally Posted by ~kev~ View Post

      Visitors should have the right to see the real link, and not a cloaked link before they click on it

      I disagree with the whole concept of cloaking links to start with, so I'am glad wordpress took the action it did.
      Signature
      Aden
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    • Profile picture of the author TelZilla
      Originally Posted by ~kev~ View Post

      Visitors should have the right to see the real link, and not a cloaked link before they click on it

      I disagree with the whole concept of cloaking links to start with, so I'am glad wordpress took the action it did.
      And I'll have to disagree with you. The whole concept of cloaking links is to:

      1. Make it more readable.
      2. Protect your affiliate link.
      3. Better tracking.

      If you don't like the link, don't click on it.
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      Don't get so wrapped up in making money that you forget the important things in life.
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      • Profile picture of the author Rob Howard
        Originally Posted by TelZilla View Post

        And I'll have to disagree with you. The whole concept of cloaking links is to:

        1. Make it more readable.
        2. Protect your affiliate link.
        3. Better tracking.

        If you don't like the link, don't click on it.
        And as Brian said above...it's my damn website, I pay the hosting, I own the domain names, I built the site, Visitors HAVE no rights on my site. They get no say in what I can and can't do. If they don't like cloaked links, tough, they can leave!

        Rob
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    • Profile picture of the author SteveJohnson
      Originally Posted by Ken_Caudill View Post

      Why? Who gave them the right?
      I'm leaving the following just for posterity's sake - and a reminder to myself not to fly off half-cocked - I COMPLETELY misread your post Ken, and what you were talking about. Apologies.


      Oh, good grief.

      They have the right because they own the site. If they don't want certain things there, they don't have to let them be there.

      There are plenty of popular plugins that aren't on the repository. It just makes them harder to find and more of a pain in the ass to upgrade.
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  • Profile picture of the author webdesk
    Yes Cindy, I too think cloaking is an unfortunate term and I do not always change my links. But those extra long affiliate links sure benefit from a cleanup. I also don't use the generated replacement link; instead, I make up my own discriptive one if only for my own benefit so I can tell one from another easliy. And when a vendor does change their system (it's happened to more than just us), updating is just a matter of a single spot change!
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    Aden
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  • Profile picture of the author Quentin
    Well sounds good kindsvater but did you not get the memo that you do not have many rights left anymore.

    As for the plugin if you do not upgrade it will keep on working. You can always down load the zip and load it anyway. It will only break when you do an upgrade so don't upgrade it.

    Quentin
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  • Profile picture of the author Alexww
    All link cloaking plugins are removed, but I am still using pretty link since I installed it before.
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  • Profile picture of the author GrahamHobbs
    Kindsvater, good point. And I agree Cindy, the term, cloaking, is an unfortunate name.
    Believe me, if cloaking didn't exist there would be another work around figured out pretty quickly. And even cloaking done for nefarious reasons is very low on the totem-pole of black-hat techniques.
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  • Profile picture of the author yours2u
    It comes to all of these giants. They preach open & free to everyone but when the net takes their baby in a direction they don't like they put on a shirt and tie and get all google on you.
    And for my pennies worth I don't cloak, I centralize links so I can change them easily. People forget that most surfers wouldn't know an affiliate link if it jumped up and down saying 'I'm an affiliate link, I'm an affiliate link'
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  • Profile picture of the author GrahamHobbs
    Jumping, talking affiliate links... now there's an interesting concept :-)
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    • Profile picture of the author eflo
      Originally Posted by GrahamHobbs View Post

      Jumping, talking affiliate links... now there's an interesting concept :-)
      Haha - now I want to make one that jumps up and down, flips and says "buy my Sh!t" ala Frank Kern style. - haha.
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  • Profile picture of the author neodarth
    It depends on which niche you are, if you are in the IM niche then probably you need to cloak your link for other affiliates don't steal your commissions.

    And I prefer to cloak the links myself instead of using the Clickbank's unintelligible-ugly-looking-wtf link cloaker.
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  • Profile picture of the author Paul Hancox
    THIS... is one of the reasons why Wordpress is not ALWAYS the best choice.

    Yes, it's great as a BLOGGING platform... but for sales letters, if you want to use anything even a little advanced (like split testing) you are going to be at the mercy of a plug-in, which could break at the next Wordpress update.

    Just something to bear in mind...

    If you want your site to look nice (i.e. have a nice template) there are plenty of sites that provide you with STATIC templates, that are much easier to manipulate than Wordpress.

    Google is your friend. (Mostly.)
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    • Profile picture of the author atwellpub
      From my play in it there are a couple way to classify link alterations:

      1. Link Redirecting
      2. Link Masking
      3. Link Cloaking
      1. Link Redirecting
      The foundation. Uses redirection; probably most url shortners fall into this category too.
      Code:
      http://www.myblog.com/redirect.php?id=12364
      2.Link Masking
      Link masking is akin to... permalink structuring. It allows a a new pretty link to replace the longer, further information revealing unsightly link.

      Available Softwares:

      Pretty Links and many others (download mentioned above)
      3. Link Cloaking
      This encompasses both 1 and 2 except it prevents Non-Human visitors or targeting visitors from following the link, and usually redirects undesirables back to the original page or somewhere else.

      This is is similar to a rel=nofollow, but it is more protecting information rather than link flow (actually protecting both); considering how information might affect algorithms.

      Available Softwares:


      Cloak Me - WSO Available - Cloak Me - Wordpress Link Cloaker & Spider Redirection | Wordpress Link Cloaker

      WP Link Engine - WSO Coudn't Find - WP Link Engine | Wordpress Link Cloaker <--- Notice the Masked URL!
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      • Profile picture of the author Sean A McAlister
        Originally Posted by atwellpub View Post

        From my play in it there are a couple way to classify link alterations:

        1. Link Redirecting
        2. Link Masking
        3. Link Cloaking

        GoPages does all of that..

        JV Press ~ Go Pages

        It's free
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  • Profile picture of the author pcpupil
    well,the stock version of pretty link quit working on my site.
    None of my links where cloaked,or whatever there called now.
    Maybe i should try and re-download it again.
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    • Profile picture of the author netkid
      @Istvan,

      You are right on the money! The issue here was with Wordpress.COM blogs?!?!
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  • Profile picture of the author mrchristo
    maybe wordpress will move towards their own 'inhouse' plugin like twitter are doing with 't.co' now
    short url (cloaked links) have there place and with some SEO link builders that produce horribly long links for wordpress i can see it maybe wasnt the best move.

    but they own the site and we are just 'end users' so we must eat what they feed us.

    i run several link clocking services so maybe i will get new customers now LOL's
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  • Profile picture of the author NetMan
    Well well, as far as I can see, and I read the whole thread, most folks are completely missing the point I guess.

    Link cloaking and link shortening (redirect function) are TWO DIFFERENT things!

    A link is cloaked when it is cloaked that is there's no way to see where you are really, like the blrowser's address bar shows an address that is NOT where you are really for example, and the way link cloaking is often used it might even become illegal at some point.

    Link shortening scripts or services, which are used just for that and redirects you to the real URL, not cloakink where you are, is just that, a redirection device, not cloaking. Two different things.

    Now you may have noticed that the Pretty Link (lite) is back into the wordpress.org repository because the CLOAKING FUNCTION has been removed, but not the shortening/redirects function.

    Best regards,

    Andre Foisy

    P.M Anyone interseted in a script that is external to WP and would it all, yes also cloaking and tracking click, with a dashboard management, no coding required etc. then PM me.
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    • Profile picture of the author Gobala Krishnan
      Well, actually we're partly to blame for this, lol.

      When we submitted our link cloaking plugin for LinkTrackr (Link Cloaking, Masking and Tracking Software - LinkTrackr is 100% Web Based) they rejected our plugin with a one liner reply: "We don't accept cloaking plugins"

      So I correctly pointed out to them in my reply email that there are over 14 cloaking plugins on WordPress.org so why do claim that they don't accept it. No reply to my email.

      So i pushed further via Twitter with a friend's help trying to get a better reply.

      Finally I did get an indirect channel to Matt and they informed me that they will take a look at it. Next thing I know, they removed all the existing cloaking plugins.

      My intention was to get my plugin included, not to get other plugins removed, just to be clear. But that's what they decided.

      For the record, our plugin is rejected again, for the third time, even after we removed any "cloaking" term and function.

      I think the problem is, the guys over at WordPress don't really understand what "link cloaking" means. In fact I think they understand very little about affiliate marketing in general.

      The other problem is that they don't clearly specify what type of plugins they don't accept. So we spend all that time developing it, only to have someone (Mark Jacquith i guess) arbitrarily reject it without any useful comments.

      We've developed and submitted other plugins too, which were either rejected with a vague "Your plugin will not be included" reply, or approved but later silently deleted from WordPress.org.

      I've made my case to Matt (via a friend) on how they should improve the plugin submission process, but apart from deleting all the cloaking plugins, I don't see any changes to the way things are done.
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    • Profile picture of the author Gobala Krishnan
      Originally Posted by NetMan View Post

      Link cloaking and link shortening (redirect function) are TWO DIFFERENT things!
      Yes that's true. In fact what our plugin does is "link masking" or "link redirect".

      But somehow, the term "link cloaking" now has replaced the other two words in a way that it means the same thing. In terms of SEO also, that term is searched much more.

      But just changing "link cloaking" to "link masking" doesn't seem to get your plugin accepted either.

      Blair Williams is much better connected in the WordPress community (even has some presentations you can find on WordPress.tv) and I think that's the only reason his plugin got back in and everyone else didn't.
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  • Profile picture of the author Eddieheli
    I have created a camtasia video to show you how to do your own link cloaking.

    Click here http://www.eddieevans.co.uk/files/videosample/linkcloak/index.html

    Regards
    Eddie
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    Eddieheli -
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    • Profile picture of the author kml
      Originally Posted by Eddieheli View Post

      I have created a camtasia video to show you how to do your own link cloaking.

      Regards
      Eddie
      good video - you might also want to adjust your .htaccess file to disallow on the folder to avoid the robots.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jesus Perez
    Am I missing something? All they did was pull a plugin from the repository. My cloaking plugin, Ninja Affiliate Link by MaxBlogPress, still works perfectly. So technically, no one is impacted. You just need to take an extra step installing the plugin.
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  • Profile picture of the author ChrisCree
    I'm with Istvan on this. The conversation on this thread is silly. Y'all can still run any plugin you want on your own WordPress installs.

    Does anyone else see the irony of declaring that we each have the right to do whatever we want with our own websites while complaining about WordPress.org doing what they want to with their site?

    Deep breaths, folks. The sky is not falling here.
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  • Profile picture of the author ThisIsMyHealth
    Agree with Chris...if you choose to host on their server, they have the right to decide whatever they will.

    That's why it is so important to get your own domain and your own hosting.

    Good point Chris!
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