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403 Forbidden - Fur Affinity hotlink protection explained

403 ForbiddenIf you are a furry and you have an interest in furry art you might have noticed that other furries started giving you strange reactions to the art you post in forums or on your websites. People claim that they can't see the art you posted and even when you link them to the image directly, they say that they only get a white page with the text "403 Forbidden" on it.

This is all caused by a mechanism called "hotlink protection".

What's that? What does it do?

When you embed or link an image from Fur Affinity on a website, the web browser of the furry trying to view that image sends the web address of the website embedding or linking said image as a so-called "referrer" to the Fur Affinity servers.

What happens now is that the Fur Affinity servers notice that the image is not viewed from within the Fur Affinity website and they return an error page in place of the hot furry art your fellow furs where so eager to see.

Really? So why is it that I can see the image just fine?

There is a pretty easy explanation for that. In order to be able to link or embed the art in the first place, you had to find it first. This means you have been on the Fur Affinity website and obviously images load without any problems there.

In order to not having to download massive amounts of data every time you visit a website stuffed with terabytes of furry pornography, your web browser keeps a local copy of the naughty stuff you already looked at on your computers hard disk. This is called "caching".

When you put the very same image you already looked at on a forum or your blog, your web browser realizes that it already got a copy of said image on your computer and displays that instead of asking the Fur Affinity servers again.

Therefore, you can still see the image while your fellow furry friends can't.

Another possible reason is that you might access the website holding the image using a secure connection (HTTPS) while other furries use an unencrypted connection (HTTP). Web browsers are supposed to suppress sending of "referrer" information when using a secure connection, so Fur Affinity can't see that the image is actually embedded somewhere else.

That's lame. Why does FurAffinity do that?

Running a huge website which hosts terabytes of furry pornography actually costs an insane amount of money. Actually, the costs for running a website are commonly strongly tied to the amount of data you send over the Internet and huge images such as that naughty dragon doing "things" to the little fox are usually rather big in file size.

Since FurAffinity doesn't ask you for money in order to be able to access all that awesome stuff, the people running it have to find other ways to get back some of the money they have to spent each month to keep that place running. A common way to do just that is displaying adverts.

But wait... those advertising banners are placed on the Fur Affinity website and not on the hot art you just tried to put on a forum somewhere. How can they get any money from that?

Well, they can't. Those images "hotlinked" on other websites only cost them money. The person looking at those images would have to decide to visit the Fur Affinity website - which the person might not even know about since all that can be seen is an image - in order for the makers of Fur Affinity to get anything back for the service they offer.

Okay. I got it. But how can I link my favorite furry art now?

The easiest option is probably to link to the page on Fur Affinity containing the image instead of linking or embedding the image directly. This won't give your fellow furries any idea what they are going to look at though.

You could also save the image to your computer and either attach it to your forum post using the forums build-in attachment function (if available) or re-upload it to one of the many image hosting services out there.

If you are going to re-upload the image elsewhere, it is advisable to scale it down to a reasonable size and link to the original page containing the artwork for a full view. Many image hosters offer options to create thumbnails automatically. That's also a nice way to give credit to the artist who created the artwork.

And while we are talking about artists: Some of them actually don't like their work to be re-uploaded or displayed anywhere else without at least being asked first. Play it fair and have some respect for those who bring you stunning furry artwork.



Just a random user's picture

Would I still see the "things", that the naughty dragon doing to the little fox if I disable my Referer-transfer in my Web-Browser?
Or isn't it the same kind of referer?!

Chi-Yu's picture

That should also work but it might break other websites and I'd really like to know where my blog visitors are coming from. =P

Dave's picture

So it is better to load the page, the adverts, the text, and everything else, again and again, rather than just the image? Isn't it more bandwidth to load the entire page?

Chi-Yu's picture

It is still better.

The image itself is usually the largest file. The additional content such as text and "everything else" is not much data compared to the image.

Additionally, some of that content - like style information, used fonts, colors and common design elements such as the website logo - is cached locally when first visiting the site so it is not downloaded every time. The browser already got it and won't download it again.

Adverts are usually served from a different server which is optimized to do nothing more than delivering ads. Adverts are also optimized to use a minimal amount of bandwidth through image optimization. For example, one of the currently served adverts is 21.25 KB in size while one of the currently shown artworks on the front page is 886.77 KB which is more than 40 times larger.

And now guess why there are adverts on the page which are even targeted at the website audience. Some people who like the artwork may be interested in the artists advertising on Fur Affinity and might actually click on one of those adverts.

Fur Affinity gets money for clicks on adverts and they need that money to keep the site running because hosting such a big site is expensive. Hot linking images means that no ads are displayed and this means Fur Affinity would be serving high resolution furry porn on another website without a chance to get any money in return.

The website containing hot linked artwork from Fur Affinity might have their own adverts. This would mean that they are actually stealing content from Fur Affinity to make money themselves because the hot linked artwork might draw more attention to their website. People won't even know that the content is hosted on Fur Affinity. They might think that it's original content created by that site.

So to summarize: hot linking means serving your content to other websites without any return of investment and without attribution to your own site.

Does that sound fair to you?

Comments disabled since 23.05.2015
I decided to disable comments globally due to the never ending amount of spam bots which useful blog posts appear to attract. Even though comments are moderated and spam comments never actually appear on the site, I'm simply sick of having to remove them from the moderation queue all the time.
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