I have a simple RSS news application built using JavaScript, that pulls in feeds through Google's feed API. I'm doing a proof of concept and caching the feed using localStorage though due to storage limitations, I only store the HTML and not the images.

When I load a feed from cached html, and the images are merely img tags pointing to the source content - is this distinguishable from hot-linking an image? If so, is there another way I should go about this? Or - does this even matter?

Edit: To avoid any possible confusion, I am not attempting to hotlink content. I am trying to use syndicated content according to the terms of use (according to Google's feed API). I am caching the content to speed up the application, and only cache it for as long as is allowed according to each feed's policy (if set in the HTTP header). I am merely wondering if this is the appropriate way to handle this content, and if not, what would be an appropriate alternative.

  • Sorry, I just saw the edit you made, so I deleted my answer (I know about hotlinking but not about the google feed api :) )
    – user6901
    Jan 29, 2012 at 21:03
  • Is this a Google feed you are loading, or one from elsewhere on the web? Jan 30, 2012 at 10:26
  • Its feeds from all over the web, but I am loading them using Googles Feeds API (see link at beginning of post). Its basically a way for me to ping one source and get JSON formatted responses, as opposed to dealing with feeds on an individual basis.
    – george
    Jan 30, 2012 at 14:34

1 Answer 1


In short, yes. If you display HTML in a page on your site, which links to images hosted elsewhere, then that is by definition "hotlinking", and is not distinguishable from any other form of hotlinking. It makes no difference whether it's in the original HTML source or loaded via Javascript, the browser should send the same headers including the 'referer' [sic].

However, there is not necessarily anything wrong with what you are doing. It depends on the Terms of Service of the originating website and if they allow their feed to be syndicated on other websites. Google's ToS only controls use of the API itself and I assume specifies that you are responsible for legal rights of any third party content.

In practice though, I can't see it being a problem. The worst that could happen is they block image requests referred from your site. To mitigate this, make sure to link through to the original website so that you are not stealing their content and image bandwidth for no return.

  • Cool. I set it up as a newsreader, so it displays titles, ads, and links from the original site and in that regard follow the ToS for each feed I've used so far. That being said - is there some idiom people follow when doing this - like attaching a header "Hey - I'm a feed reader you'll get a lot of requests from me but they are all legitimate"?
    – george
    Jan 30, 2012 at 17:10
  • @george I have never heard of such a thing. If it's possible to set a custom user-agent via the Javascript then you could put your site name/URL. Otherwise simply contacting the site in question and letting them know would be a good idea. Jan 30, 2012 at 17:18

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