Hotlinking is when you use the image from one website on another website without copying the image to the second website’s server.
Most website operators hate when people do that to their images if they don’t link back to the source. Bandwidth costs money and if you’re using someone’s bandwidth to have the image appear for your content it’s like stealing money.
You can of course avoid all this problem by saving the image and uploading it to your own server. Do this only if the image is not copyrighted of course. But, this is a bit of a hassle that you may be willing to do if it’s your blog.
However if you just want to use an image for a forum post, it’s a bit too much trouble to download and upload the image. There is ImageWell of course to help you, but there is an even simpler way.
You can use the service called ImgRed. All you do is add
http://imgred.com/ in front of the url of the image you want to display and ImgRed will take the image (once) and create a copy of it on ImgRed’s servers. You are saving time because you don’t need to go though the hassle of hosting the image yourself and at the same time you’re being a good person by avoiding hotlinking.
Here is a test. First I’m going to hotlink an image with this code from Ads of the World. The owner of the site will not be happy! 😉
Second, I’m ImgRed-ing the same image with the following code. Notice the extra piece of ImgRed code:
You can see that the two images are identical, but they are hosted on two different servers. The first one puts a burden on Ads of the World servers. The second one loads from ImgRed’s servers.
And we are not done. You can even generate a thumbnail directly through ImgRed by adding
http://imgred.com/tn/ in front of the image url. You can use this thumbnail to link back to the original story if the image is too big to display within a forum topic.
Here is an example: