Link Rot Pt 2

Over the years I’ve moved between a number of content management systems, URL schemes, and even whole domain name changes. So when I did a move a while back I put in a large number of URL redirects for all of those ancient URLs in use around the tubes. A year ago I announced that I was removing them, but happenstance had me installing an nginx variant that had perl shortly after, so they lived for a while longer.

I finally moved on, removing the surface area risk of that rewrite subsystem. Those URLs that I have been serving 301 permanent redirects for years are now dead. I have added to the global accumulation of link rot. I see dozens to hundreds of people coming from old HN or other links daily, get redirected to the front page, and click back (interesting to note that no one just searches for whatever it was that they were looking for once on the site. Attention spans have fallen to essentially zero).

I considered just making the 404 page a search of the wrong URL, Not worth it. Technically it’s an easy problem to solve, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth solving.

A pretty boring tale about link rot, but really it’s an observation about technology and simple solutions being ignored: Again, for years those old links were being responded to with a courtesy note that the URL has changed and a new URL should be used permanently. Link rot didn’t have to become rot if any of those systems ever did any verification at all on their links, remembering the new location for the future.

While that sort of link verification and upkeep is a slightly more involved task with something like social news or comment links (and has some considerations that would need to be considered like PageRank gaming, where a bunch of old links were all spaghetti fed to some spam site after gaining credibility, though that’s the case with a persistent redirect so simply fixing the new location is no regression), it’s so bad that even feed readers ignored 301 redirects for years. They followed them, but the next request they were back at the original URL, once again awaiting the onset of link rot.