THING 10 – Fragility of the Web 2019-06-27T15:10:14+00:00

Project Description

THING 10 – FRAGILITY OF THE WEB

Content on the internet is more vulnerable to extinction than you may think. Keeping a webpage online means maintaining the hardware and software required for a web browser (like Chrome) to view it. When someone is no longer interested in maintaining a set of webpages, those files can essentially disappear overnight. When your browser returns a 404 error, or “file not found” for a webpage you want to look at, you’re experiencing “link rot.”  The page may have been renamed, moved to another location, or removed and simply not replaced.  Some fun and creative examples of 404 pages:

NPR

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NPR

NASA

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NASA

magnt

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magnt

Content Drift

Even stable institutions with websites that have survived the test of time are likely to have those webpages updated with new information.  A website may change its focus to a different area over the years. Change in content over time, however big or small, is known as “content drift.”

A famous example illustrating content drift is a website once referred to by US Supreme Court Justice Alito in a court decision, whose URL exists today:

SSNAT

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SSNAT

Reference Rot

Both link rot and content drift result in the loss of information which cannot be reconstituted, and has been called “Reference Rot”. The implications for scholarly information and research is increasingly problematic.

Although the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine started taking snapshots in 1996, and is one of a number of services which capture/preserve websites before they change or are taken down, it is by no means exhaustive. It does not necessarily save all components it finds on a page, and may omit text, images, videos, and embedded code. It can be blocked from capturing a site, and previous captures can be deleted upon request. There are no guarantees that the Internet Archive will continue to exist.

Can anything be done?

Individuals (you) and institutions can intentionally preserve webpages. Scholars and researchers can save their work by self-archiving, for example, by using Save Page Now at Wayback Machine.

Libraries can join networks such as Perma.cc, which actively combat link rot by saving endangered web resources. Participating libraries submit the URLs of pages to preserve, and Perma.cc provides a permanent URL in return.

Perma.cc

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Perma

More information:

In this blog post, the Internet Archive shows you a few different ways to help preserve pages on the internet:

If you see something, SAVE something – 6 ways to save pages in the Wayback Machine 

Interested in learning more about the extent of reference rot? Check out these articles:

Shawn M. Jones, Herbert Van de Sompel, Harihar Shankar, Martin Klein, Richard Tobin, Claire Grover. “Scholarly Context Adrift: Three out of Four URI References Lead to Changed Content,” PLOS ONE 11, no. 12 (December 2, 2016): e0167475, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0167475.

Mia Massicotte  and Kathleen Botter , “Reference rot in the repository: A case study of electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) in an academic library. Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL), 36, no.1 (2017): 11-28, https://doi.org/10.6017/ital.v36i1.9598.

Fatih Oguz and Wallace Koehler, “URL Decay at Year 20: A Research Note,” Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 67, no. 2 (February 1, 2016): 477–79, https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.23561.

ACTIVITIES

Step 1

Visit the links below to check out the Wayback Machine’s snapshots of library.concordia.ca over time – note, these links can take a bit of time to load.  Slide your mouse pointer along the bar at the top or use the calendar arrows to move through time.

Flashback to 2007

The earliest Concordia library website snapshot in Wayback Machine was taken in 2000.

Try typing your favorite website into the search bar along the top, click Go, and move the calendar arrows. For example: cnn.com 

Click inside a green (or blue) bubble to see saved snapshots from the past.

Step 2

Start saving URLs from extinction.  Check out https://perma.cc and sign up for a guest account, which lets you save 10 free URLs per month.  Choose one or two Concordia webpages that you feel should be preserved for future reference/research and submit it.