Mitigating the Link Rot Problem

2023/07/01 - Tech

Links are one of the core features of the web. We use them to browse websites and to refer to content hosted somewhere else. The problem with links is that they might stop working at any time. Websites change and die, content is moved, modified and deleted, services introduce paywalls and login pages, laws make sites inaccessible. This is usually referred to as “link rot”.

Just a few hours ago Twitter decided to put all tweets[a] behind a login wall. This change might not be permanent if we are to believe a tweet from the owner (and of course you need an account to read it), but just like that, millions of links shared over the years, bookmarks, and open tabs no longer work as expected. And some of those links are important.

Sign in to Twitter

Popular services have been doing similar things for years. For example, Facebook and Instagram redirect users they don’t like (IP, browser, etc) to a login page independently of the content you’re trying to access (could be a meme or some announcement from your government). Reddit started hiding content from mobile users, requiring them to login or install their app (even though the content is right there behind the popup). Imgur, a very popular image hosting service, now has a problem with hosting images, started deleting content, and redirects users accessing images to pages with ads and trackers. Google tried very hard to create a Facebook competitor with Google+, but the service closed and a lot of content was lost.

This affects embedded content too. On top of the privacy problems of adding external content to pages, if the content isn’t really on the page, it might disappear, change or be put behind some wall. For some content this is not a big deal, but sometimes it is. For example, some news websites embed public posts from politicians. What if the post is removed? Did the person ever said what the site claims they did? Or what if the post is updated to say something else?

How to mitigate this?

There’s nothing we can do to stop links we don’t control from breaking, but we can duplicate the content so it exists in more than one place. We can:

  • Take screenshots of the page/content.
  • Archive the content on services like the Wayback Machine and
  • Provide different sources.
  • Keep our own copy of the content.

And so on.

The 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine

2023/04/14 - Random

Back in 2003 when the U.S. invaded Iraq[a], my father told me about him watching the start of the Gulf War[a] live on television. Apparently my parents were watching the news and later on they started showing what I believe was the CNN live feed from Baghdad. This wouldn’t surprise anyone today, but in 1991 for a guy in a rural part of Portugal, it was something very different. In the area where they lived, most only had two TV channels available, a colour TV if they were lucky (many were still black and white), and after a day of work many would watch the Telejornal[a] at 20:00 and maybe one of the (bland) programs before going to bed. Watching war live wasn’t something that people were used to, so like many they stayed up until late.

I don’t remember much of the 2003 Iraq war even though it was broadcasted live too (12 year old me didn’t pay attention to wars or followed the news). The only memories I have from what I think was the start of the war was an American tank shooting by mistake at the hotel where some journalists were staying, a statue of Saddam Hussein being toppled, and weirdly some technology that RTP[a] was using to do live broadcasts from there… I think it involved sending the video (low quality) via satellite and the audio via a normal phone call or something like that? I was into mobile phones back then, 2.5G/3G services were being introduced, we could make (expensive) video calls, etc… maybe that’s why I still remember this.

In February 2022 I had a similar experience to that of my father back in 1991. Russia invaded Ukraine[a] and I was about to follow the start of this new stage of the war in a very different way.

This won’t be an interesting post for most, but it has been a year since the start of the invasion and I’m starting to forget some of the details, so this is me writing it down in case I want to refer to it later on. Some of the content and descriptions might be too much for some, so here’s your warning to stop reading. The dates should be more or less correct, but keep in mind that it has been a year since it happened. My time zone is UTC. Some of the links also have an archived version “[a]” saved when I was writing this in case the original source changes or disappears.

Ukraine War