How To Minimise Link Rot

The WorldWideWeb is a dynamic medium, so it is not unusual to click on a link that was working last month or even yesterday only to receive “page does not exist” or a similar message. This sort of thing tends to be more common for news related issues because news pages tend to be moved around or deleted more often than others. The screengrab below may not be very clear but the link given here led originally to an article that was probably pulled on advice from an in-house lawyer. At the time of writing, January 2013, the mass murder to which it alludes remains unsolved.

Tommy Cooper who died in 1984 was voted
Britain’s best loved comedian 20 years later.

As I have pointed out elsewhere, you can preserve your links by archiving them. The Webcite Consortium allows you to create your own archived links – subject to robots.txt exclusions. These are created instantly, literally in seconds, so are ideal for archiving pages which may literally disappear overnight. The Internet Archive creates its own archive links; theoretically it is archiving the entire Internet subject to robots.txt and certain other exclusions, although in practice I have found many fairly old pages that have not been indexed.

A link that leads nowhere. A scurrilous story published in the wake of
the horror in the French Alps was pulled, probably for legal reasons.

If you believe the page to which you are linking is likely to be around for a long time, you might still like to feed it into the Wayback Machine (see image below), or if it has been around for a long time already, you might like to check it has already been archived and then link to the specific archive link at that date, in case the content of the page has changed, or changes in the future.

Here are three links from the site index page of one of my websites:

1) March 25, 2010

2) June 10, 2010

3) June 21, 2011

You may notice that there is no Paypal button at the bottom of the first archived page, while there are a few links to Digital Journal articles on the third. Sometimes the make up of a page will change far more radically, of course. One final point, ask yourself do you really need to link to a page? If you are including a reference to for example a recently deceased celebrity, do you need actually to link to a reference about that individual? Tommy Cooper (pictured left) was a big name in UK entertainment, and is still remembered fondly more than twenty years after his death, but will someone in Australia or China reading about him ten years from now know who he was? On the other hand, if you are including a passing reference to Joseph Stalin or Napoleon Bonaparte, these names are if not universal then are certainly recognised by most literate people worldwide, although a reference to a specific event in the life of either may require some sort of explanation, and a link to an historical source will probably be adequate for most casual readers rather than a paragraph of your own text or a footnote.


A screengrab of Archive.Org and the Wayback Machine.

[The above blog was published originally January 2, 2013. Minor alterations have been implemented.]

Back To Digital Journal Index