Add new post

What’s the Problem?

Before we enumerate use cases, we can state some initial indications of a problem.

Whether links fail because of DDoS attacks, censorship, or just plain old link rot, dead links are a problem for Internet users everywhere.

This isn’t a new problem (W3C – Cool URIs don’t change).

49% of links in Supreme court opinions are dead
NYT – In Supreme Court Opinions, Web Links to Nowhere

136,312 Wikipedia articles contain dead external links
Wikipedia – Category:All articles with dead external links

Some initiatives, such as the Internet Archive,, and Memento, are attempting to snapshot and preserve the Internet and provide seamless access to those snapshots.

But more and more, just a handful of centralized entities host information online. Online centralization creates “choke points” that can restrict access to web content.

This Community Group intends to pursue complementary solutions to missing online content from various angles:

  • date stamped archiving of web content
  • enabling content management systems and content authors to embed knowledge of archives and citation dates into links
  • providing browsing users with ways to discover this information

The more routes we provide to information, the more all people can freely share that information, even in the face of filtering or blockages.

Missing Link proposal

I felt like mentioning that, in addition to the Memento protocol and the mset document mentioned by Ryan, there is also the Missing Link document that emerged last year as a result of work in the Hiberlink project. The document provides:

  • A motivation for annotating links with attributes aimed at increasing link robustness,
  • A couple of proposals for such attributes.

The Missing Link document precedes the mset document and hence needs to be read as such.

Thank you for supporting Robustness & Archiving

This group began as a collaboration between teams at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Old Dominion University, and more recently, Berkman Center for Internet at Harvard University, and

To start things off, here are links to a couple efforts already in progress:

The Memento Protocol Specification (published as RFC 7089), an application-layer protocol to query & obtain prior states of an online resource:

The mset attribribute (working title), an HTML attribute to provide temporal context to & locations of copies of target content for a hyperlink:
(issue tracker for spec)

Apart from getting the word out that link rot, content drift, Internet censorship, and denial-of-service attacks are actually problems worth mitigating, implementations of RFC 7089 and design of the mset attribute are our top priorities.

Call for Participation in Robustness and Archiving Community Group

The Robustness and Archiving Community Group has been launched:

The goal of this community is to design web architecture and specifications to mitigate problems such as link rot, content drift, Internet censorship, and denial-of-service attacks. If, after following a hyperlink, the content is missing or not what you expected, we want it to be easier to find what you were looking for.

In order to join the group, you will need a W3C account.

This is a community initiative. This group was originally proposed on 2014-05-08 by Ryan Westphal. The following people supported its creation: Ryan Westphal, Nick Doty, Olivier Thereaux, Karl Dubost, Matisse VerDuyn. W3C’s hosting of this group does not imply endorsement of its activities.

The group now has access to W3C-hosted services for email, blog, wikis, irc, tracking tools, and more. Read more about tools and services available by default and upon request.

If you believe that there is an issue with this group that requires the attention of the W3C staff, please send us email on

Thank you,
W3C Community Development Team