Home Internet The internet does indeed forget

The internet does indeed forget

  • Pew Research Center analysed data from websites over the last decade and found that a quarter of web pages created between 2013 and 2023 no longer exist.
  • 38 percent of web pages created in 2013 are simply gone from the internet entirely with no way to access them.
  • Tweets disappear incredibly quickly with an estimated 90 percent of tweets becoming inaccessible within 46 days.

Rumours of content existing forever on the internet have been greatly exaggerated.

Last week, Pew Research Center highlighted something that should be concerning, the internet is disappearing or rather websites on the internet are disappearing.

The researchers found that a quarter of all web pages that were set up between 2013 and 2023 are no longer accessible. In most cases this comes down to the owner of the web page voluntarily taking it down but as we go back, you may find more and more websites are just gone.

According to Pew Research Center, 38 percent of web pages that existed in 2013 are inaccessible today. More recently, 8 percent of web pages created in 2023 are inaccessible. Some of these pages exist on functional websites others are located on websites that aren’t accessible either.

This presents an even bigger problem for news websites and even government websites. Pew found that 23 percent of news websites contain at least one broken link and 21 percent of government websites are the same. Analysis of Wikipedia found that on 54 percent of pages there was a reference that pointed to a link that no longer works.

“Broken links are about as prevalent on the most-trafficked news websites as they are on the least-trafficked sites. Some 25% of pages on news websites in the top 20% by site traffic have at least one broken link. That is nearly identical to the 26% of sites in the bottom 20% by site traffic,” says Pew.

And it’s not just web pages that are disappearing. Analysis of Twitter- now X – revealed that 18 percent of tweets are no longer accessible.

“In a majority of cases, this was because the account that originally posted the tweet was made private, suspended or deleted entirely. For the remaining tweets, the account that posted the tweet was still visible on the site, but the individual tweet had been deleted,” explains Pew.

Tweets don’t tend to last very long as the researchers found that 15 percent of tweets were deleted within a month of posting. Collectively, as much as 50 percent of tweets made are unavailable within the first six days of posting and 90 percent are inaccessible within a month.

“Some 6% of the tweets we collected disappeared and then became available again at a later point. This could be due to an account going private and then returning to public status, or to the account being suspended and later reinstated. Of those “reappeared” tweets, the vast majority (90%) were still accessible on Twitter at the end of the monitoring period,” the researchers said.

This trend of web pages becoming inaccessible is bound to create problems at some point especially when those links are on news and reference websites.

While some projects exist to preserve the internet, they often don’t consider smaller websites and without manual updates, these websites and other content may just be gone forever before it’s even had time to exist online.

 

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