I'd like to preface by saying that I am not a perfect person. I've caused links to rot in the past. Anything that was at the root of
doamatto.github.io no longer goes to those pages anymore. In fact, that domain itself goes to
git.doamatto.xyz, creating even more rot. But, before I go on a tangent on how terrible the Internet is, outlining linkrot and w
Linkrot: A Terrible Disease#
Linkrot is a simple concept you've encountered before. Try going to Geocities website (
geocities.co.jp) and you'll be greeted by a notice of termination by Yahoo Japan. Although Geocities is notably no longer with us (and many of us miss it dearly), trying to go to any site that was on GeoCities is no longer possible. This may seem trivial, but lets say there was a great recipe on one site. Maybe there was a Flash game you really enjoyed on another. And one could have been your own: chaulk full of the
worst best fanfic you've ever seen. It's all gone now. Forever. This is linkrot: pages that existed at some point and have now ceased to exist.
Redirects: A Sane Solution#
In some instances, this is "acceptable". What's the point of keeping iOS 14's website when there's iOS 15? Most sites fix this with HTTP codes, basically little notes for your browser to know what data it's getting. These can be used for redirects to other pages, checking if something is a teapot, or flat out saying it doesn't exist anymore (
404). This is technically the solution.
Domains: An Expense#
But, of course, with the Internet, you need a friendly way to reach a website. It's easily to remember
maatt.ch rather than
188.8.131.52. But, let's say you haven't payed for your domain in a few years. Going back to the GeoCities example, let's say
geocities.co.jp wasn't paid for. Redirects wouldn't be possible. This creates a new problem that's seemingly unsolveable. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to reach this point. You'd have a backup with someone who hosts sites for free, like GitHub, Vercel, et al. But, not everyone does that, and it can create more linkrot. Now, not only are that recipe, that Flash game, and your
terrible amazing fanfic gone, but so is anything else you could have found on GeoCities. And, if that host disappears, you've entered done a circle.
The Wayback Machine: Plan B#
Fortunately, there are masochists in this world. Those who decided that they should make a copy of everything on the Internet within their ability. Well over 70 petabytes (70 000 terabytes, or 70 000 iPhone 13 Pro Maxs with 1Tb of storage each) is stored safely with the Internet Archive and accessible to the masses via the Wayback Machine. Cloudflare even has changed their Always Online service to use in the Wayback Machine to make site backups that can be served when your site goes down. A solution to your missing recipe would be finding a copy, but a remedy is finding a similar one. As is your game. And, you can always write more
horrific terrific fanfic. Complete, searchable backups are not a solution, but a remedy.
What even possessed me to spend so much time out of my day writing about linkrot and how we suck as humans on the Internet? Probably because I miss the old Internet. The Internet is boring and plain now (that's a rant for another day). Fortuantely, people are starting to be unique on the web again and realising there's better things than just social media on this crazy platform. Sadly, I don't think any of my friends will be getting their own websites anytime soon to replace social media with.