Saturday, March 7, 2015

Link rot scourge continues

If you’ve ever bookmarked a webpage and got an error message when you tried to visit it later, you’ve experienced the effects of link rot.
Disappearing webpages and online articles are part of the here-today, gone-tomorrow nature of the Internet. It’s also the biggest failed promise of digital content.
Last June, I ran an online tool from to look for broken links on Tech-media-tainment. The service processed 1,178 web pages and found 570 broken links. I took me hours to clear out the dead links.
On Feb. 20, I ran the Online Broken Link Checker tool again. It processed 1,317 web pages and found 85 broken links. It’s alarming how many links to articles and websites went bad in just eight months.
Since last summer, some of those weblinks died when websites went under or were acquired. More common were websites sunseting articles or changing their URLs. This is most common with old media like newspapers and magazines. Digital news organizations treat their articles with more respect.
In some cases I was able to find articles with changed URLs by doing searches on a media company’s website. Other times I located the content on other websites.
If the Internet is going to be a trustable resource for research, the scourge of link rot must end.

Photos: 404 error pages from broken links on Tech-media-tainment. From top, CNet error page, error page, and Vanity Fair error page.

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