Bruce Schneier wrote recently about link rot -- web pages that are no longer available at their old URLs -- and the inconvenience it causes to internet users (in some cases, like online communities, it's much more than inconvenience). As a blogger who links to lots of online stuff, I find link rot a major pain in the neck.
I use this blog for linking to things that I find interesting; but I also use it as a place holder for things that I may need later (many links to data sources on higher ed around the world belong to this category). The hope, of course, is that these links will still take me to those pages when I need to visit them. This is just a hope.
Among Indian newspapers and magazines, I haven't had any link rot trouble with the Indian Express, Telegraph, and Outlook. While the Hindu has been good in keeping all its content open; it dishes out stuff using multiple sites, some of which don't seem to work later. And I haven't figured out which are the ones to avoid!
Some sites take their content behind a paywall after sometime. I think these sites are committing a slow suicide by ruling their content out of conversations, more and more of which are happening on the internet. Newspapers like the Business Standard belong to this category, and I wouldn't shed a tear when they all eventually die.
Some other sites go through a website redesign which creates a completely new URL structure. Examples of this sort of heightened incompetence include the Times of India and the Economic Times. All my old links to articles in these newspapers are totally useless!
Another example is the Economic and Political Weekly, whose redesign also leaves us with tons of link rot. To make things worse, their current design makes it difficult to link to their articles (pdf files) directly. What use is free content that defies direct links?
And finally, we have bloggers -- who really ought to know better! -- who simply decide that they need to start over! The most recent example is Ramnath, who retains the old blog URL, but none of the old content (A lot of it was so interesting.... Sigh!). Before him, Arunn canned his old blog and started a new one; much of the old content is there, but the URLs have changed! As a crowning example, let me cite the vanishing act of How the Other Half Lives (you can see the link -- broken, of course -- on the sidebar) to which I contributed quite a few posts.
It pains me to go back to the archives, and see that many of my posts have useless links! Grrrrr!
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- Don't get yourself a website if you cannot maintain (pay for and keep) the site's domain name for years and years.
- Don't go through site re-design if you don't know how to keep the old URLs intact.
- If you want to start a new blog on domains like WordPress or Blogspot, please start a really new blog; leave the old one alone. As someone who read and linked to your blog, I'll be grateful!
BTW, (1) and (2) should tell you why I don't have my own domain ;-)