The internet is disappearing, says research

The Internet is disappearing, a new study suggests, as web pages and online content are lost.

The internet is often seen as a place where content lives forever. But according to new research, large chunks of it are lost when pages are deleted or moved.

For example, of the web pages that existed in 2013, 38 percent are now lost. Even newer pages are disappearing: 8 percent of the pages that existed in 2023 are no longer available.

(Getty Images)

These pages tend to disappear when deleted or moved. This happens on otherwise functional websites, according to the Pew Research Center study, and not when entire websites disappear.

The effect means that large amounts of news and important reference content disappear. About 23 percent of news pages contain at least one broken link, and 21 percent of government websites, the report says – and 54 percent of Wikipedia pages contain a link in their references that no longer exists.

Much the same effect happens on social media. A fifth of tweets disappear from the site within a few months of being posted.

The study was completed by collecting random samples of nearly a million web pages from Common Crawl, a service that archives parts of the Internet. Researchers then looked at whether those pages survived between 2013 and 2023.

It showed that 25 percent of all pages collected between 2013 and 2023 were no longer available. Of those, 16 percent of the pages came from a website that still exists, while 9 percent were on websites that no longer exist at all.

The report ‘When Online Content Disappears’ has been published on the Pew Research Center website.

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