Jonathan Zittrain: “Link Rot Is Eroding the Coherence of Information”

Taking a meta view of information commons throughout history for the Atlantic, law professor Jonathan Zittrain argues that internet link rot is really a problem. Tracking the jump from libraries to Google and across storage materials of varying durability (papyrus, paper, floppy disk, hard drive), he describes how broken links and bygone websites represents a “comprehensive breakdown in the chain of custody for facts” that limits our ability to cite in legal and academic contexts, and everyday life. Drawing on Berkman Klein Center initatives and the legacy of Project Xanadu and Internet Archive, Zittrain diagnoses how seemingly benign elements of our information diet (the Amazon Kindle, the lack of canonical TikTok URLs) may be symptoms of a more troubling condition.


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