Links passing through api.viglink.com?

post by Document · 2013-04-27T12:39:02.727Z · score: 5 (12 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 20 comments

Visiting Less Wrong after being absent for a while can be a major time sink. The sidebar recent-posts and recent-comments links (which I usually have blocked, but not always; I haven't installed the relevant extensions on the system I'm on yet) draw me into interesting discussions, which frequently link back to other discussions, and so on.

To limit how deep I get drawn in, I try to hold back from reflexively clicking links in comments and posts. Instead I just hover over them (or press and hold on a touchscreen) to view the address, hoping to get a general idea of what they're about and whether I'm familiar with them (and occasionally saving them to a folder if I think I might want them later).

Recently, though, I've noticed that LW is replacing off-site links with indirect links, passed through the domain api.viglink.com. This means I can't just glance at the URL to see where it points; I have to either open it or paste it into the address bar and scroll through it looking for the embedded URL of the actual link. Is it important for it to do that? Is there a way to turn that function off, or a browser extension (preferrably Android-compatible) to reverse it?

(Initially posted about here in the current open thread, but I decided I wanted it to be more visible.)

20 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2013-04-27T13:35:06.296Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

The Adblock Plus add-on for Firefox and Chrome will hide viglinks.

So will adding the line

0.0.0.0 api.viglink.com

to the /etc/hosts file according to at least a couple of writings on the web.

comment by Document · 2013-04-27T14:00:05.703Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks. Where should I look for that file, on a Windows XP or Vista PC or on an Android 4 tablet?

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-04-27T14:28:19.118Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You'll have probably found it by now, but for anyone else, on Windows it's typically under your Windows install directory in .\System32\drivers\etc\hosts. On Android it's under /system/etc/hosts, but you need root access to edit it.

Edit: just remembered, you'll probably need elevated access on Windows boxes as well, and this can get a bit tricky on Vista. Right-click on your notepad icon and select "run as administrator" (which you'll only have if your account has admin privileges). Then open the hosts file from the above path inside notepad and edit it there.

comment by rhollerith_dot_com · 2013-04-27T14:07:06.843Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Am going to refer you to google since I do not run Windows or Android.

Unless what I have read is unusually misinformative, though, it is possible on both. (On Android you need access to root.)

comment by CWG · 2014-12-06T12:09:36.128Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Another option: Saving to "Pocket" (getpocket.com) and reading there works on Android, and presumably on other platforms.

comment by gwern · 2013-04-27T22:20:17.465Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

See http://lesswrong.com/lw/40p/proposal_all_amazon_hyperlinks_get_less_wrongs/

(Second hit in Google for "viglink site:lesswrong.com".)

comment by Document · 2013-04-28T02:16:38.979Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes; I use that code on Amazon myself. Is there a point in particular you want to make about it?

comment by gwern · 2013-04-28T02:21:03.475Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Um... it explains why the Viglink stuff is there? Which is what you made a post to ask?

Recently, though, I've noticed that LW is replacing off-site links with indirect links, passed through the domain api.viglink.com. This means I can't just glance at the URL to see where it points; I have to either open it or paste it into the address bar and scroll through it looking for the embedded URL of the actual link. Is it important for it to do that?

comment by Document · 2013-04-28T02:25:12.443Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Could you quote the particular passage that explains why all links to any external site are being intercepted and passed through api.viglink.com? Or did you mean to link a different Google hit? I thought I searched the site before asking the question, but I may have neglected to.

comment by gwern · 2013-04-28T02:32:21.489Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

??? That page is exactly on point, as is the very first comment. What exactly don't you understand here?

comment by Document · 2013-04-28T02:48:17.102Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Everything I see relates to appending a Viglink code, and only to links to Amazon. Again, could you quote the part I'm overlooking?

comment by gwern · 2013-04-28T03:29:53.716Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Er, from the first comment, the one I mentioned:

Back in August 2010, I helped install an even more universal solution in the form of VigLink to experiment and see if it would work well for us.

What, exactly, did you think 'even more universal' than an Amazon referral code meant?

comment by Document · 2013-04-28T03:45:43.075Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I thought it meant more universal than lukeprog's proposed pseudocode; i.e., something guaranteed to work for all Amazon links (though as the replies point out, not when you open them in a new tab or window). Thanks for providing the quote.

(Also, to be pedantic: that's the most recent top-level comment, not the first. You might have LW set to sort by New or another setting on your browser.)

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2013-04-28T18:50:19.720Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

(It's also the top one if you sort comments by "Best".)

comment by Kawoomba · 2013-04-27T21:52:08.434Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

What's the purpose of the indirect linkage, why is foreign substance introduced into our precious bodily fluids, erm links?

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-04-27T22:09:12.969Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"1. Sign Up Simply add a snippet of code to your site. 2. Get Clicked Link as you always have (or let us help). 3. Get Paid When a reader buys, you get a cut." Alternative to ads, presumably.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2013-04-28T02:16:59.784Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This doesn't explain why this happens to all links, not just the ones to amazon.com.

comment by Pfft · 2014-07-08T01:40:04.659Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It's not just for Amazon, it's also eBay etc. "VigLink covers more than 90% of the top 500 Internet retailers with affiliate programs".

comment by Document · 2013-04-28T02:18:02.983Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It even intercepts links to appliedrationality.org. Don't they own LW in the first place?

comment by Document · 2013-09-13T17:33:22.935Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It looks like the problem was fixed in the last day or so. (Either that, or Chrome for Android updated so that clicking and holding a link now shows what the site wants it to (the destination URL) rather than the actual link target (the viglink URL).)

Edit: Nope, it's back, or still happens for some links and not others.