How the web changes

I spent some time looking through some old links the other day. I imported all my bookmarks into Lnto (which I really need to release one of these days) and I was browsing through some of the ones that I've had hanging around forever. Some of them date back to when I was in college.

Turns out quite a few of them were dead. Some of these were not unexpected. There were a few links to cjb.net, members.tripod.com, and suchlike sites that are now defunct. There were also several links to university web pages, many presumably belonging to students who have long since graduated.

Several of them were also domains that had changed hands. Most were parked and covered with ads. One was an anime fan site that now redirects to the official site of the distributor.

The most interesting one was a Final Fantasy fan site that is now an "escort service" site. Out of curiosity, I looked the site up in the Wayback Machine and found that this is actually a fairly recent development. Apparently the fan site was in existence until 2009. In 2010, the archived copies are just mostly empty directory listings. These continue into 2011, and then there's one copy that appears to be a broken and/or spammy blog. There are no archived pages from 2012, and then in 2013, there's a GoDaddy parked domain page in June, followed by the escort service site in July.
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It's strange how the web works. Despite the talk about how digital content lasts forever and how it's virtually impossible to completely delete anything you put online, the truth is that content on the web is surprisingly ephemeral. Sites regularly disappear with no explanation; content gets modified with no indication whatsoever to readers; sites get reorganized, breaking every external link and just redirecting them to the front page. It's a wonder people manage to find anything at all!

This has been on my mind anyway, since I've been meaning to get back to refactoring LnBlog (which is a topic for another post). As part of that, I was going to work on a nicer URL structure. That piece is easy, but I'm committed to keeping all the old links valid. That's less easy, but not unmanageable. (It's actually further complicated by the fact that I'm considering moving off of subdomains so that )

The thing is, I've owned this domain for nearly ten years and URLs are something I never really put a great deal of thought into. But it seems obvious that I need to start thinking seriously about the best way to manage them. I want the content on my site to have true permalinks - I want the college kids who bookmark a blog entry today to still be able to visit that link when their kids are in college.

This will require some planning and future-proofing. And I'm not just about the URLs themselves - those are the easy part - but conventions for different types of content, what constitutes "permanent" content, and how I'm going to maintain all this stuff across potentially many changes in hosting and underlying technology. If I'm going to have this site until I die (and that is the plan), I'm eventually going to have an awful lot of content, and it would pay to have a plan for how to deal with that.

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