Last week’s landmark ruling from the Supreme Court on same sex marriage was routinely published on the Web as a PDF. Given the past history of URL use in Supreme Court opinions I thought I would take a quick look to see what URLs were present. There are two, both are in Justice Alito’s dissenting opinion, and one is broken … just four days after the PDF was published. You can see it yourself at the bottom of page 100 in the PDF.
If you point your browser at
you will get a page not found error:
Sadly even the Internet Archive doesn’t have a snapshot of the page available.
But notice it thinks it can get a copy of it still. That’s because the Center for Disease Control’s website is responding with a 200 OK instead of a 404 Not Found:
zen:~ ed$ curl -I http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databrief/db18.pdf HTTP/1.1 200 OK Content-Type: text/html X-Powered-By: ASP.NET X-UA-Compatible: IE=edge,chrome=1 Date: Tue, 30 Jun 2015 16:22:18 GMT Connection: keep-alive
At any rate, it’s not Internet Archive’s fault that they haven’t archived the Webpage originally published in 2009, because the URL is actually a typo. Instead it should be
which leads to:
So between the broken URL and the 200 OK for something not found we’ve got issues of link rot and reference rot all rolled up into a one character typo. Sigh.
I think a couple lessons for web publishers can be distilled from this little story:
- when publishing on the Web include link checking as part of your editorial process
- if you are going to publish links on the Web use a format that’s easy to check … like HTML.