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PC Gamer
PC Gamer
Andy Edser

The internet is disappearing, with a quarter of all webpages from 2013 to 2023 going the way of the dodo

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Well, so long and thanks for all the fish. A study from the Pew Research Center entitled "When Online Content Disappears" indicates that our beloved internet may well be disappearing beneath our fingers—with a quarter of all webpages that existed between 2013 and 2023 found to be no longer accessible.

Contrary to the popular perception that everything committed to the interwebs is destined to exist forever, the study revealed that 38% of pages that existed in 2013 alone have now been lost (via The Independent). It doesn't appear to be an age-related phenomenon, either. 

Even newer pages appear to be performing vanishing acts—eight percent of pages that existed in 2023 were found to be unavailable, too.

The study made use of Common Crawl, an open repository of web crawl data that archives billions of webpages and provides archives and datasets for public use. The researchers took random samples of over a million webpages, before checking the links to see which were still active, and which had gone to the great lost information archive in the sky.

The results showed 23% of news pages and 21% of government websites studied were found to include at least one broken link, while a staggering 54% of Wikipedia pages included a reference link that no longer exists. That's a lot of facts that can no longer be reasonably checked.

Given the internet's integral role in modern society (for better or worse) in terms of verifying information, these results are troubling. What with the increasing proliferation of misleading AI content, losing valuable sources of information pre AI-era can't possibly help.

Compounding this slide into a murky world where verifiable information is increasingly harder to find, a recent study found that 46.9% of all internet traffic could be attributed to bots—many of which may be contributing all sorts of made-up information to further muddy the waters.

That's on top of increasingly convincing deep fakes, AI news summation bots going (admittedly, hilariously) off the rails, and a continued monetisation of the internet to the point where properly researched content doesn't seem to matter much anymore in the face of rampant profit

That leaves us looking at a future where new information is dubious, and old, arguably "pre-decline" information, increasingly hard to find.

Sounds like the perfect recipe for a dystopia, doesn't it? Well, it's been fun, folks. If you'd like to check any of the outsourced links in this article for veracity, you'd better get in there quick. At this rate, I'm sorry to say, you may just have to take our word for it.

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