When the dashboard redesign is officially added to WordPress core, it looks like it will be missing a widget that’s been with the software since 2005 when the Dashboard feature was introduced with WordPress 1.5 “Strayhorn”. In its early days, the incoming links widget used Technorati but due to the service not being able to handle the traffic from WordPress installs, the site was down more than it was up. This prompted the switch from Technorati to Google Blogsearch in a later version of WordPress.
I personally found the Technorati version of the widget much more useful than the Google Blogsearch version. The widget updated on its own and for the most part, the URLs were legitimate sites linking to articles of mine. I remember visiting most of those websites to not only thank them in the comments for the link, but also read what they had to say regarding my blog posts. However, shortly after switching from Technorati to Google Blogsearch, I discovered that my own blog posts were being shown within the widget, cancelling out any links generated from outside sources. While doing some research for this post, I discovered a WordPress.org support thread created by yours truly, detailing this specific issue.
Remove The Widget, Or Fix It?
Undoubtedly, some people will be upset to see incoming links disappear. In a conversation I had on Twitter today, I brought up the idea that pingbacks and trackbacks solve the purpose of incoming links. However, those techniques have been abused by spammers for so long, most sites have them turned off. Simple Trackback Validation suggested by Otto is a plugin that’s made those technologies useful again. I won’t dive into the specifics but it’s worked for me.
The incoming links widget has been allowed to sit inside the WordPress dashboard broken, for too many years. For example, here is what the widget shows me in WordPress 3.6.1.
How is it useful for me as a site administrator to see the last 10 incoming links are actually the 10 most recent posts published on the site? It’s not. That’s why I’m glad to see a useless widget that no one has time to properly fix be removed from core. If the widget were to be reworked into something useful, my suggestion would be to show the most recent 5-10 referral links. Those types of links are such a pain to find within analytic software, especially recent ones. Something that quickly showed just that information to me would be considered helpful and worthy of taking up a spot on my dashboard.
What do you think?