I try to do my bit of keeping the web fluent by minimizing the amount of link rot affecting my own site. This means keeping track of local 404's and fixing them, as well as manually updating broken external URL references I come across.

I've seen redirects suggested as one solution to combat link rot. When all links point to local redirect addresses (such as example.com/?r=123456), the actual target URL can be kept in a database and updated throughout the site in one place in the face of link rot.

However, on the user side I generally dislike redirect systems myself, as they make picking up the actual target URL's somewhat cumbersome (have a look at the title links on a Google search results page for example).

Then again, maybe I've used sites that do employ redirects but do it transparently enough for me not to even notice.

Is a transparent (or nearly-so) redirect system at all possible? Are such systems available already, or should I roll my own?

Also, I'd be interested to hear if there are other major cons in utilizing redirects. So far, the user annoyance I mentioned above has been enough to keep me from planning ahead with this technique.

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Should I combat link rot with redirects?


Can it be done unintrusively?

The overhead associated with a redirect lookup script on a rarely-visited URI shouldn't be an issue if your server is not already struggling to get by, so (while I haven't tried any out-of-the-box solutions) I think it's safe to say that replacing your static 404 page with a script which checks for redirects and issues a 301 - Permanent if it finds any before returning a 404 status is a good idea.

Anecdotally, I've used a 404 handler script in one form or another for years and there really is no reason not to - it is particularly important to keep up with link rot on older domains as the oldest content tends to have the greatest number of links, though keeping up on your logs can really pay off when a malformed link to your content becomes popular (i.e. http://domain.com/page/) from a malformed e-mail link or forum post).

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