The end of the 404? Why we need to repair the internet’s crumbling infrastructure

Gutteres ITU Internet 2018

(ITU, 2018)

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Shirley Chen, Founder and CEO, Narrativ

The internet is nearly 30, and it’s starting to show signs of age. Links, the foundation of the internet, are in crisis. The pages plagued by dead links are not obscure Wikipedia entries or repositories of cat memes – 49% of hyperlinks in Supreme Court cases don’t work. During President Obama’s first term in office, 83% of PDFs across .gov domains vanished. Across the Harvard Law Review, 70% of links are defunct, a 2014 study found.

Thirty per cent of all links on the web redirect to dead 404 pages or out-of-date information. The problem is proliferating as more websites create transient pages with a half-life sometimes as low as 72 hours. Much like how previous generations faced the environmental waste caused by rapid post-industrial growth, how we address digital waste will determine whether our generation realizes the fundamental promise of the internet.

For publishers, a key pillar to establishing a sustainable revenue model is increasing the lifetime value of content. An outstanding feature piece or profile has an incredibly long shelf life, as long as the links in the story are kept up to date. In the frantic race to restore declining ad revenues, publishers have seemingly forgotten that their greatest asset is the long tail of articles that reporters and editors spend weeks to get just right. For most prominent publishers, 60% of traffic comes to articles that are more than two months old.

Since the advent of the internet, many scholars have treated link rot as a self-fulfilling prophecy, and an accepted externality of internet growth. But this is now a fixable problem. Instead of focusing solely on the creation of new content, the internet environment of the future will prioritize sustainability and renewal – and with that, editorial independence.

While technology has historically been the barrier to fixing link decay at scale, the obstacle now is incomplete knowledge – both of the economic potential of repairing broken links, and of the solutions to do it.

Previous attempts to address the problem have focused solely on manually fixing dead links, which while admirable, will never provide enough scale to address link rot meaningfully. We will never keep pace with the internet without a solution that proactively repairs links as they break. The good news is that current innovations in technology and machine learning can solve these problems, if publishers and technologists appreciate the impact of investing in a solution for ending the 404.

While the ephemeral nature of online commerce is inevitable, a trail of broken links is not. A classic case of link erosion online comes from publishers linking to retailers in shopping editorial. Products are constantly fluctuating in and out of stock and being replaced on retailer sites. This leads to a graveyard of 404 pages which are linked to from many corners of the internet.

Since the mass adoption of digital media, there has often been an inverse relationship between the tactics publishers have used to monetize, and their relationship to the reader experience. The proliferation of advertising technology has done little to replace lost print revenues, while the meteoric rise of sketchy “around the web” ads (which at some point have been implemented by almost every major global organization) has deeply eroded consumer trust by openly promoting false information. Repairing links presents a unique opportunity to simultaneously boost revenue by providing a better media product.

At Narrativ, we have restored more than one billion links in just two years. We have seen first-hand the commercial and UX impact, particularly for media entities. When pages break or are removed, Narrativ redirects users to the same content hosted elsewhere or relevant fallback destinations, preserving the integrity of a digital experience. We are proud to partner with a coalition of publishers and technologists committed to creating renewable links across the internet. Increasingly, forward-thinking companies understand that constructing a renewable web is simply good business.

Fixing broken links is essential to building a business model that supports the independence of journalism. We need a technology infrastructure that maintains the integrity of the fourth estate and its service to our democracy.

In the realm of innovation, repairing dead links often takes a backseat to advances in artificial intelligence, blockchain and IoT, among others. But all of these advances are dependent on a single variable: access to data. As the fundamental connectors of data, links are essential to providing the open and accurate information that underpins technological progress. Our future depends on repairing the internet’s decaying infrastructure. Let’s end the 404.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Road use charges: reforms aim to improve fairness and environmental protection

David Attenborough’s worried about this ocean threat – and it’s not plastic

Deadly swine fever threatens Asia, UN agriculture agency warns, urging regional collaboration

A free press is ‘cornerstone’ for accountability and ‘speaking truth to power’: Guterres

EU deal on electricity market rules to benefit both consumers and environment

7 ways for businesses to capture the youth dividend

Security Council imposes arms embargo on South Sudan

The Future of Balkans: Embracing Education

Eurozone in trouble after Nicosia’s ‘no’

A Valentine’s Special: heart has nothing to do with it, it’s all Brain

Are we at risk of a financial crisis? Our new report takes a look

The digital skills gap is widening fast. Here’s how to bridge it

How India is solving its cooling challenge

‘Dangerous nationalism’ seriously threatens efforts to tackle statelessness: UNHCR chief

State aid: Commission finds Luxembourg gave illegal tax benefits to Engie; has to recover around €120 million

The sustainable fashion revolution is well underway. These 5 trends prove it

Iraq: Security Council told ‘despair’ has ‘given way to hope’ but road to stability ‘long and far from easy’

Global leaders and companies pledge to reduce the gender pay gap by 2030

Boosting adult learning essential to help people adapt to future of work

More accessible products and services for disabled and elderly people

Why the answer to a more sustainable future could lie within the platform economy

MEPs vote for upgrade to rail passenger rights

eGovernmnet for more efficiency, equality and democracy

Solutions for cultural understanding: medical students’ perspective

LGBTQI+ and medicine

These 4 scenarios show how we might be working in the future

JADE Testimonial #3: Sebastian @ Fundraising

Ensure that widows are ‘not left out or left behind’, UN chief urges on International Day

The influence of the multilateral agreement on migrant health

Our tourism system is broken – time to customize

Indonesia has a plan to deal with its plastic waste problem

‘Crimes against humanity,’ ‘war crimes’ and risk of new ethnic violence in DR Congo, warn UN experts

Vaccines: from miracle to possible danger

Turkey presents a new strategy for EU accession but foreign policy could be the lucky card

Humane leadership must be the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s real innovation

Is the European Banking Union an impossible task?

UN Security Council ‘utterly failed’ Syrian detainees; a victim voices her plea to ‘end impunity and stop this horror’

European Young Innovators Forum @ European Business Summit 2014: Europe for StartUps, vision 2020

Technology can help solve the climate crisis – but it will need our help

EU continues targeting on Chinese steel imports instead of the revival of its own economy

Cyprus tragedy reveals Eurozone’s arbitrary functioning

Countries must invest at least 1% more of GDP on primary healthcare to eliminate glaring coverage gaps

UNICEF delivers medical supplies to Gaza in wake of deadly protests

Kids who live in the countryside have better motor skills, a study in Finland has found

UN atomic watchdog chief updates governing body on key North Korean reactor

Prevent future crises and empower youth – now!

Energy Union: EU invests a further €800 million in priority energy infrastructure

UN-backed intercultural dialogue forum urged to keep working to ‘bridge gap between the like-minded’

Immigration crisis at its very worst: EU to outsource rescue business to North Africa?

EU announces record €550 million contribution to save 16 million lives from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria

Could robot leaders do better than our current politicians?

The European Sting @ Mobile World Congress 2014, Creating What’s Next for the World. Can EU Policy follow?

UN chief welcomes possibility of resumed talks between US and North Korea

Corruption In The Balkans Is Impeding EU Membership

EU-India summit: Will the EU manage to sign a free trade agreement with India before Britain?

Banking Union: Non-performing loans in the EU continue to decline

Protests, violence in Haiti prompts international call for ‘realistic and lasting solutions’ to crisis

Unemployment and stagnation can tear Eurozone apart if austere policies persist

Greece begins a new chapter following the conclusion of its stability support programme

Across the world, women outlive men. This is why

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s