Update: Welcome, Slashdotters!

amberyoutubeDon’t you hate it when Web links vanish?

But what if a visitor to TeleRead or another blog could perform a Lazarus act and bring back the dead ones?

Wish no more. We’ve just added the Amber plugin for WordPress and Drupal, from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. Check out the related video.

From now on, if TeleRead links to an external site and the link no longer works, you can see the page just the same. The “hover” option to see the page will show up after two seconds.

At least that’s our hope. Let’s see if Amber gets along ok with our other plug-ins. The fall-back pages will be stored at the Internet Archive, although we could also have chosen our own server. We’re talking Web pages here. But what if copyright law allowed similar technology for preservation of books, especially networked ones?

Sorry, but this service is only “from now on.” It won’t work with already-vanished links. What’s more, Amber will not preserve pages from sites that opt out. And the preserved pages may not be the most recent versions.

Needless to say, I’m highly in favor of anything that mitigates “link rot.” TeleRead goes back to the 1990s and is the world’s oldest site devoted to general-interest news and views on e-books. We’ve outlasted many and perhaps most of the sites we’ve linked to.

We’re still working on these matters internally, by the way. If you do get our 404 page because you couldn’t find a post you were looking for, you’ll see a reminder to use the search box in the upper right. The desired page may still be on our site—just not at the same Web address.

Update: Additional info from the Register, including the level of link rot damage to the Web: “Highlighting the depth of the problem, a paper back in 2013 written by one of the instigators of the problem, Harvard academic Jonathan Zittrain, highlighted that nearly half – 49 per cent – of the links in Supreme Court decisions went nowhere. Likewise over 100,000 Wikipedia articles contained dead links.

“There is also the risk of DDoS attacks on big storage providers or hosters taking down millions of webpages, and of course censorship where government or other entities limit or block specific URLs because of the content they contain.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. This will be interesting to follow. I’ve been creating eBooks to archive articles I’d miss if they went away and my eLibrary has grown considerably due to this practice. I imagine that this will require Teleread to contract for some additional storage.
    I also have and use software that will crawl a site and download all the files it uses. This practice can require a lot of disk space since so many modern web sites make such extensive use of javascript, css, video and so on. I manage this using the configuration options that can limit how deeply and widely the crawl will be. Do you get to manage such things with this plug-in?

  2. @Frank: I am using the Internet Archive for storage, as allowed by a WordPress setting for Amber. That’s all I needed to do. I heartily recommend that your yourself experiment with Amber if possible; if it indeed performs as expected, it is incredible. What an alternative to 404’s! I’d love to hear back from you after you’ve had a chance to try Amber (assuming you use WordPress or Drupal). Props to Berkman for this!