© Copyright 2002 Stuart Langridge and Ian Hickson.
Pingback is a mechanism for one Web site inform another that the first now links to content on the second. Typically, these will both be frequently updated Web logs ("blogs").
For example, Alice writes an interesting article on her Web log. Bob then reads this article and comments about it, linking back to Alice's original post. Using pingback, Bob's software can automatically notify Alice that her post has been linked to.
This is a working draft. Comments are welcome on the blogite mailing list (archived).
There are currently six known implementations of this specification, although no thorough testing has been done to check how compliant they are:
The English version of this specification is the only normative version. However, for translations of this document, see http://www.hixie.ch/specs/pingback/translations/.
The Pingback system is a way for a blog to be automatically notified when other blogs link to it. It is entirely transparent to the blogger doing the linking, requiring no user intervention to work, and operates on principles of automatic discovery of everything that it needs to know. A sample blog post involving Pingback might go like this:
It enables reverse linking — a way of going back up a chain of links rather than merely drilling down.
The pingback mechanism uses an HTML or XHTML
<link> element for autodiscovery, and uses a
single XML-RPC call for notifying the target site of the link on the
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC 2119].
pages MUST be valid HTML or XHTML pages containing a
<link> element in one of the following two
<link rel="pingback" href="pingback server">
<link rel="pingback" href="pingback server" />
The link element MUST match the appropriate form exactly (including the whitespace before the slash, for instance).
Pages MUST NOT include more than one such element, and MUST NOT include such a string matching the pattern described below unless it is intended to be the link element.
The pingback server placeholder MUST be replaced by
the absolute URI of the pingback XML-RPC server. This URI
MUST NOT include entities other than
". Other characters that would not be valid in
the HTML document or that cannot be represented in the document's
character sencoding MUST be escaped using the
mechanism as described in [RFC2396].
These strict requirements are intended to drastically reduce the requirements on clients implementing server autodiscovery, as it was deemed that requiring clients to implement an HTML parser in addition to an XML parser was a too heavy burden, given how easy it would be for page authors to comply to the restrictions described above.
Pingback clients, given a source URI and a target URI, should fetch the target URI and search for the first match of the following regular expression:
<link rel="pingback" href="([^"]+)" ?/?>
Clients MUST then expand the four allowed entities
"). Having extracted this URI, it SHOULD be used
to send an XML-RPC request as described
If the regular expression does not match, then the target in
question does not support pingback as defined by this specification
and the client MAY do whatever it likes. However, it is RECOMMENDED
that clients do not attempt to be more lenient (e.g. by
correctly parsing the HTML and looking for
elements that look like pingback links from an HTML point of view)
because this will lead to some systems recognising the link and
others ignoring it.
Clients MAY optimise the search. For example:
<link>elements may only appear in the document's head, clients MAY abort when the strings
<body>are seen (e.g. if the client reads the content one line at a time).
Content-Rangeheader to only fetch the first few kilobytes of the target URI.
Note, however, that these optimisations are prone to being caught out by legitimate documents, for example those having comments containing the strings given above, or those with large inline stylesheets appearing before the pingback link. Authors are encouraged to take these possible optimisations into account when deciding where to place their pingback links.
How the client is told of the source and target URIs is out of the scope of this specification, but typically blogs will extract external links from posts being made to find the target URIs.
Pingback clients, having discovered a pingback
server, SHOULD send the server an XML-RPC request with the method
pingback.ping and two arguments, the source URI
and the target URI respectively. [XML-RPC]
string, as described below.
Servers MUST respond to this function call either with a single string or with a fault code.
If the pingback request is successful, then the return value MUST be a single string, containing as much information as the server deems useful. This string is only expected to be used for debugging purposes.
If the result is unsuccessful, then the server MUST respond with an RPC fault value. This specification does not specify what error codes to use.
Clients MAY ignore the return value, whether the request was successful or not. It is RECOMMENDED that clients do not show the result of successful requests to the user.
Upon receiving a request, servers MAY do what they like. However, the following steps are RECOMMENDED:
To claim conformance to this specification a pingback client MUST support server autodiscovery as described in this specification and MUST correctly send pingback XML-RPC calls.
To claim conformance to this specification a pingback server MUST be able to receive pingback XML-RPC calls and MUST always return results that conform to the allowed return values.
Note that some pingback servers may not have associated pages. For example, a pingback gateway server could be standalone, and other pages would then use the link element to link to this gateway server instead of providing a server of their own. To claim conformance to this specification a pingback-enabled page MUST have a link element in order to allow for server autodiscovery.
To claim conformance to this specification a pingback user agent MUST support server autodiscovery as described in this specification, MUST correctly send pingback XML-RPC calls, MUST be able to receive pingback XML-RPC calls, MUST always return results that conform to the allowed return values, and MUST have a link element on all potential target pages in order to allow for server autodiscovery.
Here is a more detailed look at what could happen between Alice and Bob during the example described in the introduction.
http://alice.example.org/#p123, and the URL of the link to Bob's blog is
<link rel="pingback" href="http://bob.example.net/xmlrpcserver">If this tag had not been contained in the page, then Bob's blog would not support Pingback, so Alice's software would have given up here (moving on to the next link found in step 2).
There ends the work undertaken by Alice's system. The rest of the work is performed by Bob's blog.
http://alice.example.org/#p123(the site linking to Bob) and
http://bob.example.net/#foo(the page Alice linked to).
http://bob.example.net/#foois in fact a post on this blog.
http://alice.example.org/#p123and checks the Content-Type of the entity returned to make sure it is text of some sort.
http://bob.example.net/#foo(to prevent spamming of pingbacks).