Why durable links matter

In How podcasting got its name, Dave nicely outlines the derivation of the terms podcast and podcasting.

That last link goes to the Wikipedia page, because pretty much any other link I put in there has a greater risk of breaking. And that’s what’s at issue here.

Dave was able to date usage in part because others, including yours truly, knew that history was being made, live, at the time. My contribution was DIY Radio with PODcasting, on a Linux Journal blog called IT Garage, on 28 September 2004. In it I wrote this linky passage:

But now most of my radio listening is to what Adam Curry and others are starting to call podcasts. That last link currently brings up 24 results on Google. A year from now, it will pull up hundreds of thousands, or perhaps even millions.

Which it did, and still does.

But what matters here is that Linux Journal has kept IT Garage up on the Web, even though it has long since run its course.

In The Web We Lost and How We Lost the Web, Anil Dash describes the slope down which we have collectively slid over the last decade or so, as more and more of our documents and activities online have become streams instead of pages, and locked up in what Bruce Schneier calls a feudal world of walled POPS: Privately Owned Public Spaces.

I saw the streamed world emerging when my son Allen predicted the “Live Web” in 2003. I thought that was an amazing insight, especially since the Web of pages we had known since 1995 was fundamentally a static one. My first substantive piece about the Live Web was probably this one in 2005. My last was this one in 2011. More recently Phil Windley has run with it, which I like because he’s a real developer and not just a writer/instigator like me.

We can find these historic details because links have at least a provisional permanence to them. They are, literally, paths to locations. Thanks to those, we can document the history we make, and learn from it as well.

Links also, as David Weinberger has always put it so well, subvert hierarchy. There is something about the loose joining of our small pieces that keeps the big centralizers from turning everything we do into snow on the water.


  1. Jon Husband’s avatar

    There is something about the loose joining of our small pieces that keeps the big centralizers from turning everything we do into snow on the water.

    Goodness, let’s hope so !

    Actually, let’s do more than hope .. let’s keep on finding ways to de-centralize centralization where it’s useful and important for all of us to do so.

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Jon.

    And yes, that’s what David and I (along with Chris Locke and Rick Levine) tried to do with Cluetrain, and that all of us, in our own ways, have been trying to do ever since. Mine since ’06 has been ProjectVRM and lately Customer Commons as well.

    But, as Anil and others have been pointing out, we have a long way to go.

  3. Nitin Badjatia’s avatar

    Links are even more fragile when you consider the rise of the URL shorteners (link broker?). I wonder what will happen to connections I’ve made via bit.ly years from now if(when) bit.ly disappears.

    A related thought, I think the ‘linkosphere’ collectively paused for a few seconds when Libya was collapsing, not so much for the terrible loss of life, rather for the risk a chaotic Libya meant for the .ly domain.

  4. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Nitin.

    I have similar feelings about link shorteners. I use Bitly mostly on Twitter, where i need the shortening and I already assume that Twitter tweets are poorly archived, or, as a practical matter, not archived at all.

  5. Mike Peterson’s avatar

    The ephemeralink phenomenon seems to correlate with the inexorable rise of broadcast media and their ilk on the Web. For them, the Web is just a series of streams to be consumed.

  6. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Indeed it does, Mike. And it’s no accident. The old broadcast system is the elephant in the Net’s snake of time. Let’s hope that the snake itself does not become a pachyderm.

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