In a dimly lit room that smelled of solder, I peered into a CRT monitor. The Internet was growing up, Textism was a cool blog, but Dean Allen was yet to publish his first F-bomb. Business websites were changing publishing technologies with reckless abandon, and the links the world made to their pages were becoming outdated.
Tim Berners Lee wrote Cool URIs Don’t Change back in 1998, but now Zeldman was saying it, and Gruber was probably sneering at it, so the permanent link was here to stay. Bloggers left their first posts up for posterity, 404 Not Found pages made smug references to their visitor’s lack of typing prowess. URLs containing session IDs made the cognoscenti roll their eyes. I was sold.
Fast forward a decade, plus loose change, and the Internet is a thriving beast with tendrils in every part of life. Big business caught on to a good handful of web best practices, and is happily using mod_rewrite to keep their ducks in a row and the pages loading. I’ve spent the decade tooling around with some of the web technologies, watching my family start to grow up and considering what the Internet of their future will look like.
One thing has become increasingly clear to me. Cool URIs don’t change, but an awful lot of them expire. If The Future includes all the content from the past, it’ll be very cluttered and inaccurate. Google - and the Other Search Engine - are very good at sifting popular and useful content from amongst the background noise of inaccurate, badly written or simply ignorable content. I think the Internet of the Future will provide endless minutiae about our lives for our entertainment and edification. It will be hard enough to maintain a sensible level of privacy without having to worry about link-rot.
My new strategy is to concentrate on my articles that provide value. The rest can 404 in peace.