Researchers work to eradicate broken hyperlinks

News.com is reporting Here that researchers are working on a way to erradicate the dreaded 404 messages.


Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley say they have come a step closer to solving a frustrating problem familiar to most Web surfers--the broken hyperlink.

In a recent academic paper, computer scientists Thomas A. Phelps and Robert Wilensky outlined a way to create links among Web pages that will work even if documents are moved elsewhere. While researchers have tried to tackle the issue before, Internet search experts said the paper describes a potentially elegant solution to a widespread and long-recognized puzzle.\"It\'s a pretty clever way of dealing with a very difficult problem,\" said Ron Daniel, who once worked on an alternative solution that has been submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force, an online standards body.

A key feature of the Web is its ability to take readers instantly to related documents through hyperlinks. Some consider it the soul of the medium. But as many as one in five Web links that are more than a year old may be out of date, according to Andrei Broder, vice president of research at search engine AltaVista. When surfers click on such links, they get a \"404 error\" message.

\"The rate of change on the Web is very fast,\" he said. \"And the more active a Web site is, the quicker it changes.\"

In their paper, Phelps and Wilensky say the preliminary results of their research indicate that the vast majority of documents on the Web can be uniquely identified based on a small set of words that no other document shares. This set of words can be used to augment the standard Universal Resource Locator (URL), or Web address, and turn up the page if it goes missing.

One of the things that makes the research interesting, Wilensky said, is the low number of terms required.

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