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2011 Report on Link Rot

How reliable are those URLs in your OPAC? The Chesapeake Project Legal Information Archive which harvests and preserves relevant digital information from the web, has been producing reports on “link rot” for several years. They define link rot as “a URL that no longer provides direct access to files matching the content originally harvested from the URL and currently preserved in the Chesapeake Project’s digital archive.”

Their new report is now available:

This study is particularly relevant to government information specialists because more than 90% of their sample URLs were from state governments (state.[state code].us), organizations (.org), and government (.gov) the top-level domains.

Their data show that link rot frequency for .gov files was 10% in 2008, 13% in 2009, and 25% in 2010. State-level URL link rot was even worse: 10.8% in 2008, 15.8% in 2009, and 32.1% in 2010.

The authors qualify their findings, noting that the study is “not meant to be broadly applicable or to provide a representation of link rot throughout the universe of web resources” but only reports on those items in the Chesapeake Project archive. It also says, however, that the study provides “insight into the vulnerability of law- and policy-related web resources selected by experienced law librarians from seemingly stable open-access web sites hosted by reputable organizations and state and federal governments.”

Significantly, “none of the content analyzed in this study has been truly lost; all of the content has been preserved in a digital archive” at The Chesapeake project.

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  1. Carl Malamud says:

    This study is *exactly* why law librarians and govdocs librarians need to take a much more active role in curating, repurposing, and preserving important legal information instead of ceding that role to 3 foreign-owned multinationals.

  2. jrjacobs says:

    Hi Carl. Thanks so much for your comment and for your continuing work in this area. I completely agree that law and docs librarians can and should take a leading role in this digital curation space. The law.gov initiative is a good start, as is lockss-usdocs.stanford.edu and the many libraries using archive-it.org to harvest up .gov sites of all kinds. But many hands make light work and much more needs to be done.

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