We’ve known for a while that trackback is broken. Initially it was an interesting thought, instead of writing a long winded (perhaps somewhat off topic) answer in comments, you write it on your own blog and “ping” the original post. Nice. Then people started threading the comments and trackbacks with the comments, in one display block instead of separate. Then spam arrived.
Now not only have a lot of people stopped offering trackback urls on their posts but most have stopped using the system completely, prefering the simple link, has effective now that referal tools and services like Pubsub and Technorati are making it easy to find who’s linking you.
So, having said all of that, when’s the last time you’ve seen a trackback ping that brought anything at all to a discussion? Actually, when’s the last time you’ve even clicked on a trackback link, except maybe by mistake, thinking it was a comment? I did it this morning for the first time in maybe as much as a year. Not out of interest for the linked content mind you, I just noticed that on this post on Techcrunch the first 20 items under “comments” were such trackbacks and pingbacks. I clicked all of them and didn’t find one piece of information. Just quotes and copies of the chart from the post, that’s it. Pretty much no commenting at all.
I’d be ready to bet money that it’s the case everywhere you see trackbacks. Obviously people are simply using it as a form of “soft spamming”. They’re interested in the subject, are reading the blog, actually have a blog themselves so it’s not completely fake like spam but, really, what else are they doing but trying to grab traffic? Why do people keep trackbacks on their sites? Free advertisinig for the pingers?
Note: Trackbacks are used in a whole different manner on Yulblog (and all such metablogs) so I don’t include that type of setup in my criticism, obviously.