in Allgemein, JavaScript

The Disqus Affiliated Links Program

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from somebody who read an article on my blog. He told me that he clicked on the XING link on my “About” page, but was redirected to some shady online trading website instead of my XING profile. So I took my laptop and reviewed my own blog, immediately. And – OMG – he was right! I started to investigate what was going on. Here’s what I found out.

What happened

My blog has an “About” page. Despite other things, you will find a link to my XING profile there. The link looks like this:

But if you clicked on the link, you will be redirected to some shady website I have never heard of.

Disqus redirects your links

Although the HTML code of the link looks absolutely simply, the user will be redirected to somewhere else. So I looked at the page in the Chrome developer tools. As you can see in the image below, the link was still correct in the HTML code. However, several event listeners have been attached to the link. The JavaScript file which registered the event listener came from the Disqus CDN.

This means Disqus will intercept your links and might redirect users to some arbitrary website.

Affiliated Links

The reason why Disqus is doing that is called Affiliated Links. Affiliated Links is nothing else as a way of advertisement. Every time an user clicks such a link, Disqus will get a small amount of money. That’s how Disqus will make money by using your site.

Deactivate Affiliated Links on Disqus

The bad thing about Disqus’ Affiliated Links program is, that it’s an opt-out program. This means if you don’t say “No!”, it will be activated automatically. You must deactivate this function explicitly.

See: https://help.disqus.com/customer/en/portal/articles/2425431-how-to-disable-affiliate-linking

No more Disqus for me

I used Disqus for the last couple of years. It was quite comfortable and was working well for me. However, a hidden feature like this is a deal breaker for me. Although I know that a free service like Disqus must make some money, manipulating my website and breaking my links is not acceptable. I can only guess how many people didn’t find my XING or LinkedIn profile during the last years. I might lost a lot of opportunities and interesting contacts. So, time to say good by Disqus!

Best regards,
Thomas

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