How Permanent is a Permalink, Anyway?

As the New Year approaches, I recognize that I am a digital hoarder.

I back-up my backups. My backed-up backups are backed up. My home network has been up and running on a uninterruptible power supply for 787 days, 23 hours, and 30 minutes. I’d rather not talk about what happened before the UPS — (nothing happened, really) — but I will tell you that if and when there is a power brown-out, any back-up in progress will calmly and quietly finish.

I have electronic copies of every paper, email, spreadsheet, and computer program I have submitted to my professors, career people, friends, family, fellow musicians, and haters – anyone I have ever electronically interacted with, really – ever.

With these interactions are my files and websites. They are up in the cloud, on network area storage, portable disk drives, and on my laptop too. I have such a robust backup plan that I plead with my friends to let me help them setup their websites so their back-ups happen on an automated schedule, and that routine upgrades don’t get “forgotten” about.

Have you upgraded to WordPress 3.8 yet? Just press the upgrade button, damnit. But back it up first!

I am the guy who stresses over the aesthetics of his CSS as much as he does the concern that someone somewhere in the world may have bookmarked or cited a link to a post he wrote eight years ago in a CMS he painfully coded from scratch, but no longer uses. What if someone’s future *depended on* that link and clicking it took them to a 404 error page? (Did you really think I was going to be that guy?)

How permanent is a permalink anyway? By CNN’s standards less than eight years — (this now-broken link was cited in an old post of mine from ’05) — oh, snap!

What will become of “permanent” links in the future? If a link exists to content that is no longer there, is the reference valid? Or, must we depend on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to resurrect such cited webpages? (See what I just did there?) And what happens if the creator of a personal website passes on? Their website will serve as a memory for their friends and family, but only until their domain registration expires. Is it within reason to will our websites to our next of kin?

As the New Year approaches, I publicly confess that I am a digital hoarder. I do not expect to change this in 2014. I don’t have my website in any kind of will, but there’s a good chance that in 2024, the permalink to this post will still work. Though, if something happens to me that prevents it, at least the rest of you can count on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to recount the importance of backing up your digital data.

This post is part of the thread: My Digital Backup Strategy – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.