Sometimes it is fun to look back, and today I want to take a quick look back at the early stages of blogging, and examine the relevance of a term that many of you are probably familiar with…trackbacks.  Flash back six years ago when blogging was a very new idea and had yet to develop into what we have today. 

Before comments really caught on, it was common for a blog post’s conversation to spill over to several blogs, because bloggers would post their “comment” on their own weblog and give their takes.  The problem was, this often made it difficult for a reader to follow conversations.  As a result, the trackback was invented by the team over at Six Apart for their Movable Type software (and eventually Typepad, etc.).   Eventually, other blogging software (include WordPress) adopted this method so readers could see a post, then see who was talking about it.

In the years since then, pingbacks were created to be easier to send are less vulnerable to spam.  People that don’t have a blog will usually leave comments.  To me, this begs the question…do we really need trackbacks any longer?  When was the last time you received one that wasn’t spam?   In my opinion, blogging has outgrown the trackback and the pingback has made it irrelevant. 

As for the pingback, I think it is great for now.   I do think, however, that we are headed towards blogs using something like a Google Blog Search or Technorati to display on each individual blog page a “who is talking about this post” module, which would make the pingback fairly irrelevant as well.   All it would take is for Google to put a little more focus in improving their Google Blog Search or Technorati to narrow their focus in this type of area so that page load times wouldn’t take a drastic hit.

Anyway, sorry for the ramble, but I figured I would throw it out there and get your thoughts on trackbacks and where blogging is headed in the future. 

Kyle Eslick is WordPress enthusiast who took his passion for WordPress to the next level in 2007 by launching as a place to share hacks, tutorials, etc. Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleEslick!

  1. Andrew says:

    Trackbacks are useless, and pingbacks almost useless; although, in the case of the latter this is down to the way they are processed and not the mechanism itself.

    I am a firm believer that microformats, or similar methods, can create a distinction between ‘look at this’ links and actual commentary to make automated cross linking relevant again.

    This is the reason I produced my hReview pingback plugin, and why I am considering submitting something similar to the WordPress Trac.

  2. I decided for my blogs already some months ago to disable trackbacks. I can acknowledge it was 99.99% spam.

  3. Trackbacks and pingbacks are the threads of the blog web and part of the blogging culture.

  4. Monika says:

    Hi I love pings, I hate trackbacks( linkgrabber and spams and so on) and I doesn’t use microformats –

    Microformats are only for freaks- source get bigger and bigger and microformats are good for alle the content grabber all over the world–to give information with microformats you must be a freak, not a “normal user”.

    It doesn’t make sense to say:WP must be useable for the “greens” and newbies and than say:hey use microformats to inform about this and that ;);)

    Ping is simple as possible and the best way to inform the “whole wide world” 😉

    kindly regards

  5. Pingbacks might not be the ultimate solution but I do prefer them compared to having to rely on Google or Technorati.

  6. Troy Duncan says:

    Trackbacks are another way for people to participate in the conversation. Pingbacks are OK, but are they used across all blogging platforms? Comments are also good but they lack the depth that blog posts provide.

    Instead of removing choices, I would like blogging platforms to develop more ways to extend the conversation.

  7. p1nk g33k says:

    To be honest, I know very little about pingbacks and trackbacks. I know that they’re *supposed* to be used when your blog is linked in another blogger’s post?? But, all I know is that I receive a lot of them from spammers, so I just delete them and think of them as nothing but a pain. If someone wants to let me know that they posted about my blog post, I’d rather have them leave a comment with a link to the post.

    So, I wouldn’t be opposed to WordPress removing the ability to send trackbacks or pingbacks in future releases.

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