It's been an interesting week or so in the land of making a living on the wild, wild web.
At first I thought I would just mention this casually in passing to explain my absence from the land of blog in recent days, but then I decided that perhaps it would be good to show the world some of the realities of this unconventional life I lead.
As I've mentioned before, I make most of my living through ads on various websites that I own and maintain. Most of my sites are graphically oriented - they provide photographs and tools for graphic artists, scrapbookers etc.
Well.... a little over a week or so I noticed a precipitous drop in the number of visitors to my sites. Perplexed and concerned, I did a bit of hunting and discovered that a recent change to the way Google handles searches for images was responsible.
But their new search bypasses all that, so essentially people are now able to have access to all of my images without ever coming to my site - which means that they never see the advertisements, and I don't make any money from those users.
And to add insult to injury, Google is serving up a direct connection to the images, or "hotlinking" as the industry lingo goes. Without getting too technical, this basically means that even though my site never gets the visitor, I still have to pay for the transfer of data.
My first reaction to all of this was to pretty much dissolve into a lump of "it's not fair" self pity, punctuated by fits of "it ought to be illegal" rage. And a quick gander at a few webmaster forums told me that I was most definitely not alone in these sentiments.
In fact, owners of graphic-based websites all over the world are basically in a state of panic. Comparatively speaking, I'm in a pretty good position. There are lots of folks who haven't taken the same "keep overhead costs to an absolute minimum" approach that I have, who are facing the very real possibility of having to let go of staff and/or close up shop completely.
So, there are people starting petitions and threatening class action lawsuits, and while it's not impossible that these things will have some effect, compared to an elephant like Google, folks like me are really nothing more than tiny ants.
Meanwhile, while most of us ants were busy howling and wailing, a few larger web sites quietly started to figure out methods for getting around Google's new system, and requiring people to actually visit their sites in order to get their images.
These folks are probably more akin to mice than ants, since they are big enough companies to have actual IT departments and the resources to find a technical solution. So now, in and among the sound and fury of threats, pleas & petitions, the ants are starting to try to figure out how the mice are doing it.
It's somewhat comical to be sure, since folks who own small graphically based websites tend to be a rather non-technical crowd, but like the blind men and the elephant, we ants are starting to grasp pieces of the puzzle, and bits of the solution are starting to emerge.
I mean if the mice are finding a way to stand up to Google, it MUST be possible!
Soooo... that's basically where I am. I feel a tad bit as though I've been tossed into the dungeon, and am trying to navigate the dark twisting passages of php, mod rewrite, and the Wordpress API.
But I'm not alone down there, and I'm very close to having a solution which, while not quite as robust and elegant as the one employed by the mice, is probably going to be sufficient for my needs. And along the way I'm learning a whole pile of new skills that are giving me even more ideas for ways to make money on the wild, wild web.
So while the road my be a bit bumpy right now, it's all good!