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The Internet Network

Fixing Broken Links With the Internet Archive 79

eggboard writes "The Internet Archive has copies of Web pages corresponding to 378 billion URLs. It's working on several efforts, some of them quite recent, to help deter or assist with link rot, when links go bad. Through an API for developers, WordPress integration, a Chrome plug-in, and a JavaScript lookup, the Archive hopes to help people find at least the most recent copy of a missing or deleted page. More ambitiously, they instantly cache any link added to Wikipedia, and want to become integrated into browsers as a fallback rather than showing a 404 page."
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Fixing Broken Links With the Internet Archive

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  • Please no? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DMiax ( 915735 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:01PM (#46060923)

    ...want to become integrated into browsers as a fallback rather than showing a 404 page

    Fuck no. If a page does not exist it does not exist.

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Mashdar ( 876825 )

      You're absolutely right. Fuck me for wanting to read that article on first wort hopping from three years ago. What was I thinking?

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        Methinks a moderator needs more coffee, that wasn't offtopic. Let me explain the parent's point, since at least one person was too dense to understand.

        The GP said "when a page is gone it should be gone", WHY? That's insane. Say you want to get out that old Quake game and want to look up console commands. You're not going to find that great site because it lapsed a decade ago (the parent used beermaking as his example). [] to the rescue.

        The suggestion is that when you click that bookmark you saved a

        • Methinks a moderator needs more coffee, that wasn't offtopic.

          Yes it was, at least in part. The details on the old article's topic were completely unnecessary in order to make the point.

    • Whoa! What else do you want?
      Tell the kids when they suck? Tell bad drivers the rollover was their fault? Admissions of guilt as part of multi-million dollar settlements?

      Too much reality is bad for you, mate...

    • by dak664 ( 1992350 )

      Presumably the wayback redirect would tell you the page does not exist, but the he last time it could be loaded, this was the content. What's wrong with that?

    • There's a FireFox extension called "Resurrect Pages" which already does this tastefully:

      In case of error, it does display the error page, but the extension gives you the choice to look for the missing link in a few place (archive, google cache, etc.)

      As long as they don't simply replace 404 errors, but give a choice to the end user, I'm for it.

    • I would agree that transparently going to the lost page is a bad idea but I would not be opposed to
      a 404 error page that has a link to the last known copy of the link. What would be so bad about that?
      It would save me the step of trying to find it in the google cache and/or the internet archive which
      is what I tend to try to do if it is a link that I want.

  • To everyone who might think of subverting the HTTP standard to "helpfully" show me an alternative to a page that does not exist: fuck you.

    I don't give a shit whether you're doing it because you want to advertise to me or because you want to altruistically show me what I'm looking for even if it doesn't exist anymore. Either way, you are still lying to me and breaking everything that relies on accurate error reporting. So quit it!

    • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:10PM (#46061065) Homepage

      Supply HTTP code 404, and provide the content of the old page, preferably with a large banner saying "we couldn't find it, but here's what we had before".

      I believe that meets all applicable standards. Automated systems should recognize the 404 code, and human systems (which won't likely see the underlying code) will see the banner.

      • Absolutely agree. Give a nice little popup balloon, visibly separate from the web page (i.e. not like one of those in-client-area IE information bars; make it pop out as window size allows), that says "This page could not be accessed (error err_code). Below is an earlier version from archival_group. [ [ ] Do not show archived versions ever again, you dummy ]". (Maybe with more user-friendly language.) Problem solved.

      • Absolutely. That's a great solution.

      • by SunTzuWarmaster ( 930093 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @06:26PM (#46062021) Homepage

        So let's say that my company has three lines of products on three different webpages. We decide to discontinue two of the lines of products for being unprofitable, and remove the pages. Google search results still show the pages, and still shows them to users. These products are still shown to my potential customers, who experience frustration when they attempt to get them.

        Alternately, I create a temporary webpage for displaying some demo content to a potential client. It is a demo page, and ridden with bugs, holes, and other areas that need improvement. still shows this page as part of search results? What will potential clients think of my company, given that it put up a buggy/terrible page?

        Alternately, let's just say that I rename a longstanding webpage ( to and delete the old URL. Should redirect to false content?

        Or, let's say that my restaurant decides to take down its 2013menu.html page, and doesn't wish customers to be able to compare its new and old menu side by side to see where prices inflated.

        Error messages have purpose. While the most common case is that the page/server went offline, there are many times where a page URL changes as a result of regular website updates, where you don't want users to obtain old content.

        Sometimes things are deleted for a reason.

        • so you use the robots.txt to keep internet archive and any other respectable crawlers out

          • This does not give the site owner control, only a voice to plead with. It's a suggestion, not a door, stopping no one who wishes to ignore it.

            The type of browser that would show old pages in the first place should be looked on as more likely to break robots.txt a well. As pointed out in other posts there are perfectly valid reasons to want a page gone, not archived. This precludes that choice.
            • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

              First, won't keep anything you don't want them to -- DMCA. Second, you must have never been to; there's a banner at the top telling you it's and from the banner you can access earlier versions of the file.

            • the major search sites respect it, it's good enough

        • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @08:21PM (#46063037)

          None of those examples should result in a broken link if you are maintaining your website correctly. And this feature is only "fixing" broken links; that is links that once existed and are now 404'ed.

          If you want to discontinue a product, then replace those pages with one that explains that the product is discontinued, and provides links to simular current products, as well as the support page for the discontinued product. If a users is clicking on links in reviews or forum posts about your old product and receive 404's, or redirection to a completely unrelated and unhelpfull page on your site, they will be frustrated with or without this feature.

          In the second case, just redirect the entire demo website URL tree to a current list of examples.

          In the third case, you shouldn't do that without redirecting the old url to the new one. Seriously, are you trying to make your content hard to find?

          Again, redirect to the new menu.

          In no case is sending a user a 404 useful or benificial, nor is it the most appropriate thing to do according to the HTTP standard. If you really want to be pendantic then send a 301 or 303 to perform the redirect, otherwise use URL rewriting, or just change the contents of the existing URL, whichever is easiest. The user should only see a 404 if they clicked an invalid link that was never a real URL for your website. Otherwise, you have failed your users, and it's no-one's fault but your own if they choose to use a service that tries to make up for your short-commings.

    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:30PM (#46061313) Homepage Journal

      Chillax, dude, it's simply a matter of implementation and preferences.

      While might think this is a new idea, I've been using Errorzilla mod [] for the good part of a decade. When a 404 is encountered, you get the regular error page, and then it adds some buttons that let you look at the Google cache, Coral cache, Wayback archive, etc.

      Quite useful and non-harmful.

      • Well if you want to use a browser extension to do something interesting when you get the error, that's perfectly fine. The problem is that if this idea were implemented, it would break things like Errorzilla and nobody would have a choice about it anymore!

      • wow, thanks. I need to check it out (replying only to "mark" your post in my comment history ;)
  • It's made apparent that this is an out-of-date page pulled out of the archives. In the case of information recency not being pertinent it's useful - otherwise, misleading.
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:09PM (#46061039)

    If there is a dead link, there is usually a reason why it went dead.
    Sure we get the odd server down. But we also have cases where we have a deliberate take down of information, due to legal, or personal reasons.
    Heck they just may no longer be in business anymore, and doesn't want people to think they are.

    Also the Last Page, may not be a good page to point to, as it may have been a victim of an attack and have harmful information on it.
    404 means the page is dead, we should deal with that. Also, there are some web services that use the http error messages to send information across, having the browser say otherwise can prevent debugging.
    Also it can create lazy companies, why bother hosting your stuff, when you got someone else to do it for you, and you just have it up for some time and take it off. No more hosting for you.

    • Sure we get the odd server down. But we also have cases where we have a deliberate take down of information, due to legal, or personal reasons.

      If it's gone use 410, not 404, see: []

      • People setting up and deleting web pages are typically not the ones controlling the server. Your suggesting that every time someone deletes a hosted page, they request the provider serve a 410 for that page.

        Not gonna happen. Either the request or - presuming the slim chance the request *is* made - the serving of the 410.

        I have my own domains and I don't even do it because I make a lot of trash files for test purposes and that's an incredible pain in the ass for pages no one is supposed to see but me a
        • .htaccess

          As for trash files for test, you could keep them in a single directory and make a rule that if the file doesn't exist to return a 410.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Heck they just may no longer be in business anymore, and doesn't want people to think they are.

      Have you never used the wayback machine? They leave no doubt where you are.

      But we also have cases where we have a deliberate take down of information, due to legal, or personal reasons.

      They won't archive anything you don't want archived.

      Also the Last Page, may not be a good page to point to, as it may have been a victim of an attack and have harmful information on it. doesn't host malware.

  • Right now the Internet is an excellent place to get an education... if you're an active learner.

    Someday spoonfed education will be there with these new "universities" online compiling information and lessons

    Right now if you wanted to, you could write a webpage that links to a zillion different small lessons that would build into one real lesson to get you day to day on subjects from K-12-College. The reason I never wrote this "index of lessons:virtual textbook of interactive material" was because of link rot.

    I could spend several months compiling up a "virtual textbook of interactive material", but link rot would destroy it over time.

    I just assumed it wouldn't be worth my time because I wasn't certain if I could out index the link rot. Now if link rot is fixed with the Internet Archive, someone could sit down and link all these links, adding in a time too. This way you'd have a URL with time/date data. So if the link ever changes into something that is not the lesson you wanted, like a new blog entry, or even a shock pic, the old time/data data would indicate to the Internet Archive to do that.

    So I think what they're doing is a good idea if I know one application I'd personally use it on. I'm sure there'd be others.
  • by barlevg ( 2111272 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @05:18PM (#46061175)
    While I honestly think this is an awesome idea, I wonder, if this takes off, whether anyone who currently pays for web hosting of a static site will decide, "fuck it--it's backed up on Internet Archive. Might as well save the $N a month I pay to maintain the website and lease the domain name."
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      While I honestly think this is an awesome idea, I wonder, if this takes off, whether anyone who currently pays for web hosting of a static site will decide, "fuck it--it's backed up on Internet Archive. Might as well save the $N a month I pay to maintain the website and lease the domain name."

      Until some domain name spammer goes and hijacks the name and puts up a generic redirect for all URLs back to the home page full of ads.

      This thing gets rid of 404s. It doesn't help if the 404 is replaced with a valid, b

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      You could do that as long as you intend to never change it. My old sites are there, although they're not complete. But who hangs on to a completely static page?

  • The idea's in the right place but I'd hesitate to let anybody with so ugly and poorly maintained a web presence as into the inner workings of my browser. Seriously, guys... get it together.
  • I have a number of historical archives to provide reference to what was being said and done back in the past rather than having that info disappear forever. they are not really web pages but rather web access to mailing lists etc...

    I get requests to update the sites in them all the time, but have them set as read-only so keep the context under which they were written. So some of the web links included don't go anywhere any more but the main body of the text is valid for that period of time.

  • by rueger ( 210566 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @06:01PM (#46061733) Homepage
    We use a service to fake Netflix into believing that our TV is the US and not Canada. Many Canadians do this.

    However, the service that we use replaces our ISP's DNS with OpenDNS.

    Instead of presenting nicely a formed 404 message, with the offending URL in the location bar, OpenDNS offers up a useless message:

    "Oops! is unavailable. Please check domain for spelling errors and try again."

    And replaces the URL that you had entered with

    In practical terms, it means that if you mistype a URL you can't just go "oops" and fix the one charter that was in error - you need to retype the whole damned address.

    I'm sure that someone at OpenDNS could argue for this being a "feature," but I'd call it a bug.

    I really wish it was possible (or at least easy) to turn off this thing and just get a regular 404 message. And yeah, having the option of clicking through to an archived version of page would be good.
  • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @06:09PM (#46061821) Homepage

    Just today, I sent some mail and got :

    ----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors -----
          (reason: 521 5.2.1 : (CON:B1) [])
          (reason: 521 5.2.1 : (CON:B1) [])

    Too bad AOL seems to have taken those URLs down. A quick hop to told me that my ISP's been blocked for sending spam ... oh, joy.

    • see, your problem is you have friends / coworkers / clients that are still on AOL in the 21st century. they should be dead to you.

  • they need a search engine (witth optional date ranges). then they'd have something

  • by IonOtter ( 629215 ) on Friday January 24, 2014 @07:59PM (#46062857) Homepage

    There was a fascinating website dedicated to high-energy weapons and experiments, called

    It was run by a young man who'd been born in the US to Ukranian immigrants, which is actually important to keep in mind. He was brilliant, at least in my eyes, putting together the most incredible devices. HERF cannons, railguns, Tesla coils; you name it. He was the first to explain what the OptiCom traffic Light Changer [] was, and how it worked.

    In short, he was doing a lot of work on things a LOT of people would much rather he didn't. Things were zipping along nicely, and his college professor was very excited to see what he came up with next.

    Then 9/11 happened. Within four months, the site was gone. And Slava Person vanished from the Internet not long after that. Other people took up the mantle of his work, such as, but it's not as good as Mr. Slava's work had been.

    But if you put into WBM/A.O, you can find most of what he did. Also, one of the problems of WBM/A.O is that you can't just click on the links. Sometimes you have to copy them, then enter them into the WBM window, otherwise your browser tries to go to the direct link. Which no longer exists.

    I've also used it to find all kinds of fan fiction, role-playing games, artwork and more.

    I approve of this.

  • Can they handle the traffic from all the redirected links?
  • There is no way I'm sending visitors to my site to the internet archive without careful forethought. It's just too slow. They won't thank me for it. I'll send them there for a particular media download, but not on a lark.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp