The Disqus Affiliated Links Program

Thomas Uhrig · January 25, 2017

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a reader of 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 took a look at it. And - to my surprise - 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:

<a target="_blank" href="" rel="noopener">XING</a>

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

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.

Disqus intercepted my links and redirected users to some arbitrary website.

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

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


No more Disqus for me

I used Disqus for the last couple of years. It was comfortable and worked well for me. However, a hidden feature like this is a dealbreaker for me. Although I know that a free service like Disqus must make 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 have missed a bunch of opportunities and interesting contacts. So, time to say goodbye Disqus!

Best regards, Thomas.