Empty URL Referral

Having trouble using our contact form because of an empty referral error? Well, this page is setup to help you understand why we do not allow empty refers and what you can do to fix it.

Referrer spam is a kind of spam aimed at search engines. The technique involves making repeated web site requests using a fake referrer url that points to the site the spammer wishes to advertise. Sites that publicize their access logs, including referrer statistics, will then end up linking to the spammer's site, which will in turn be indexed by the search engines as they crawl the access logs. This benefits the spammer because of the free link, and also gives the spammer's site improved search engine placement due to link-counting algorithms that search engines use.

You might think referring spam is really not that bad, but the an empty refer could be the sign of a more serious problem. In computer security, referrer spoofing or ref tar spoofing is the sending of incorrect referrer information along with an HTTP request, sometimes with the aim of gaining unauthorized access to a web site. It can also be used because of privacy concerns, as an alternative to sending no referrer at all.

Because we take our members privacy serious, we do not allow the use of empty referrals.

What is the Cause of my Empty Referral?

Some browsers will not send a referral string or simply a wrong referral string when:

  • there is no 'www' infront of the website URL.
  • open this link in a new window/tab is selected in the browser.
  • security settings are high, particularly in internet explorer.
  • using the refspoof or refcontrol extensions in firefox browser. The analogs for internet explorer are quickspoof and spooph respectively.
  • proxy server or other filtering agent like a firewall is being used.
  • a secure page is being loaded as a security precaution.
  • a bookmark is selected or a url is typed into the address bar.
  • some other program launches the url, such as a email or news client.
  • the user has the page set as their homepage.
  • you are located on an isp with a proxy cache.
  • JavaScript navigation plays havoc with referrers.

Please check to see if any of the above reasons might be the cause of you sending an empty refer.

Comments About Website Referrals

Should you be worried if you are sending a website referral? Absolutely not!

In most cases, software vendors are largely at fault for not accurately describing what exactly a referring document is. They make the user believe that HTTP referrers is some kind of trail of every site you've ever been to (like a cookie), so of course the user is going to want to check the box that blocks referrals from being sent. Rather, a referrer lists the last site you have been to and that is all.

What the user does not understand is that it's really more of a, "where did you hear about us" inquiry from the website. It's not our right to tell a user whether they should or shouldn't block referring documents, but as a webmaster it is our responsibility to ask software developers to do a better job of explaining it in their applications and above all secure the privacy of our customers/membership.