Images for your theme
Many images probably make up your theme. They're your background, your header, and your group images. Refusing to upload those images to your site opens you up to a world of pain, and makes your site that little less user friendly.
Securing your images
Remember when photobucket and imgur changed their terms, preventing remote access? As a result, many sites were smothered in those ugly please upgrade your photobucket account banners. This is a prime example of why you should always host your site's images on your site. You can not guarantee that the link will always be there.
Changing things up
It is also much easier to update your theme with a new image. When you upload a replacement image to your theme, give it the same name as the original image and ensure that you are uploading it to the same place. The new image will overwrite the old image. This is great! Because now you don't need to delete the old image, nor do you have to update any references to that image.
Sever secure images
In the land of avatars, the most sensible thing for you to do is to simply use the avatar field for all of your avatar needs. Some sites use the custom profile fields, here's why you shouldn't.
- If your forum software does not allow those custom profile fields to contain an upload field, you are forcing your users to go elsewhere for something as basic as an avatar. It's simply an extra irritating step for your users.
- Like before, your users can not ensure that the link to that image will be maintained, that the image will not be deleted, and that the third party site will not go offline whether through error, attack or if the hosting space is no longer maintained.
- It is easier for your user's to keep track of where their images are. Because it's all there, in their profile.
Server secure images
There may be a case in which uploading your avatar or other profile images (such as small gifs), or images for your post templates is not possible due to the way your theme must be set up or software restrictions. In such a case, you should encourage your users to make use of a trusted CDN (content delivery network). The purpose of these networks is to host and maintain content on their own servers.
We highly recommend Nickpic for this service as it has been set up for RPers and is completely secure. The owner, (Ashkir on the Initiative) has also created a script to make it easier for your user's to host their images. In their own words:
Add image uploading to your website, blog or forum by installing our upload plugin. It provides image uploading to any website by placing a button that will allow your users to directly upload images to our service and it will automatically handle the codes needed for insertion. All features included like drag and drop, remote upload, image resizing and more.
I do understand that site's change their affiliate button from time to time! It simply becomes your job as a good affiliate, to check that your button image is accurate. You're probably checking them regularly for signs of life anyway. So just check their image as well!
When you connect to a website, several things need to happen.
- You enter a web address in the address bar.
- Your browser has to go to the DNS server (where the web address is located) to obtain the site's 'real address' on the server that the site lives on. The real address is an IP Address eg. 126.96.36.199
- Your browser receives the site's IP Address.
- Your browser now sends a request for a copy of the site from the site's server.
- The server approves your browser's request (hopefully!) and starts sending the site's data to your browser.
Your browser arranges the data into something like you see now.
Now, some sites opt to have going on 50 different affiliates. Whether they be true affiliates, listings or directory sites. That's 51 requests that your browser has to send to 51 different servers to download 51 pieces of information from 51 different places.
When you're cooking, isn't it easier for your ingredients to be in the kitchen? Or is it quicker to get something from the bedroom, another thing from the bathroom, another thing from your neighbour....
When avatars, affiliates and theme images are hosted on a variety of different servers, you are increasing your download time. This is why some roleplay sites never stop loading, because your browser is still sending requests for real addresses and for data, and then receiving the real address and data. This in the end, is detrimental to your users and your affiliates. No point affiliating if your button never downloads!
This refers to securing your data (including images) with https rather than http.
First a crash course:
HTTP is hypertext transfer protocol. This protocol defines how messages are both formatted and sent, how your browser behaves, and how a site's server behaves. Earlier I mentioned that your browser will send a request for information from a site server, this is a HTTP request!
HTTPS therefore, is an extra layer of security as your browser communicates with a server. HTTPS encrypts messages, prevents data from being corrupted during transfer (whether or not the corruption is intentional) and prevents man-in-the-middle attacks by authenticating data.
Sites that are not secured are marked as insecure by user's browsers and those browsers will commence blocking anything that is not secure (ie. refusing data such as your nice affiliate button.) As the site owner, it behooves you to ensure that all data (images) are secured and the best way to do this is to simply host it yourself. If you don't, affiliate buttons, avatars and other aspects of your site may not load for all of your users. For many users, they will not load by default.
Save yourself and your users some time, effort and heartache. Rehost your images and provide your users with the ability to host images for your site, on your site.