ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ Herman's blog

Where links go to die

Old blogs are some of my favourite to read. They chronicle the early internet in a way that no other medium can capture. In a way they are the early internet. I may be looking at the 90s internet with rose-tinted glasses, but I do believe it was a golden age of blogging. The internet was a lot more quiet back then, and stumbling upon someone’s blog about their journey overclocking their 200mhz processor (and the trials, tribulations, and potentially burnt chips) was pure gold.

But there’s a problem. So many of these blogs have disappeared, their links dead, and their content lost to the void1. It’s like hitting a cul-de-sac on a beautiful walk when you're confronted with a 404 while going down a blog rabbit hole. It’s the end of the road; better turn around and find another avenue.

We’ve created this amazing store of interlinked knowledge, it’s our responsibility to maintain it.

Proposal:

It is imperative for online writing (especially blogs) to have a long lifespan. We can currently read books from the 18th century with ease. It should be the same for online content from 30 years ago.

Secondly, if you are the writer, it is your responsibility to keep your links intact. One way to do this is when migrating platforms or domains to set up redirects for all your old links to the newly structured content. Eg: https://myblog.com/category/thoughts/2002/02/14/index.html should have a redirect to forward those links to your newly minted website at https://myblog.com/thoughts-in-2002/, or even https://mynewblog.com/archive/thoughts/

This is a bit of an administrative burden, and setting up redirects with your DNS provider isn’t user-friendly, but it’s the "right thing to do". Not to mention, you benefit from legacy traffic which would otherwise have been lost.

My solution:

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with the blogging platform I run.

There are a few core tenants of Bear, such as simplicity, speed, and privacy-friendliness, but for the sake of this essay I’d like to focus on durability. Bear is built to last forever2.

The underlying tech principles of durable web-projects will be the topic of another post, but for now, keeping links alive is simple:

  • If you start a blog on Bear your blog will stay alive as long as the Bear project survives. I’m working to make sure it outlives me (and I only just turned 30).
  • If you’re migrating from another platform or framework like Wordpress, posts can have an alias to make sure that legacy traffic isn’t lost. Eg: if you had a Wordpress blog with the page https://myblog.com/category/thoughts/2002/02/14/index.html then setting alias: category/thoughts/2002/02/14/index.html on the post (assuming you move your domain to Bear) will ensure all traffic to that link gets forwarded to the correct article and isn’t lost to the 404 void.

The one difficult-to-solve problem is expired domains. I don't have a solution for this yet, but a browser extension that, when confronted with a "this domain does not exist" (or worse "this domain is for sale") will automatically pull archived content from the Internet Archive.

And that's about it.

Let’s keep the better parts of the internet whole. And blogs are what make the internet wholesome.

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  1. The Internet Archive is doing some pretty great work in this area.

  2. As Christopher Robin said to Whinnie the Pooh: "Forever and ever is a very long time…", and yes, yes it is. It’s good to start with big intentions.

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