The Disappearing Web: Decay Is Eating Our History

Researchers say that within a year of certain events, an average of 11 percent of the online material that was linked to had disappeared completely. Photograph by moodboard

One of the characteristics of the modern media age—at least for anyone who uses the Web and social media a lot—is that we are surrounded by vast clouds of rapidly changing information, whether it’s blog post,s or news stories, or Twitter and Facebook updates. That’s great if you like real-time content, but there is a not-so-hidden flaw—namely, that you can’t step into the same stream twice, as Heraclitus put it. In other words, much of that information may (and probably will) disappear as new information replaces it, and small pieces of history wind up getting lost.

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