The Internet is Disappearing: What It Means for Web Design

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The internet, once thought to be a permanent repository of information, is undergoing a significant transformation. Recent studies suggest that a considerable portion of online content is disappearing, leaving gaps in the web’s archival history. This phenomenon poses challenges for both users and web designers. In this post, we explore the implications of this trend and propose strategies to mitigate its effects.

The Internet is Disappearing

A study by the Pew Research Center has revealed that a substantial percentage of web pages have vanished over the past decade. Specifically, 38% of webpages from 2013 no longer exist. This trend is not limited to older content; even 8% of pages from 2023 have already disappeared. This loss is often due to content being deleted or moved without proper redirection, leading to “dead links” and inaccessible information.

Such disappearance is not only a technical issue but also a cultural one. Historical records, news articles, and even government information are becoming increasingly ephemeral. For instance, 23% of news pages and 21% of government websites contain at least one broken link. Wikipedia, a crucial knowledge repository, also faces this problem, with 54% of its references containing links to non-existent pages.

Impacts on Users and Businesses

The disappearance of internet content affects users in numerous ways. For researchers and students, the loss of academic papers, reports, and reference materials can hinder their work. For businesses, broken links can lead to a loss of credibility and trust among customers. Users encountering dead links are likely to leave a site in frustration, resulting in reduced traffic and engagement.

Furthermore, the phenomenon impacts SEO and digital marketing efforts. Search engines penalise sites with numerous broken links, which can significantly lower their search rankings. This makes it harder for potential customers to find businesses online, affecting their reach and revenue.

Web Design Strategies to Combat Content Disappearance

To address the challenge of disappearing content, web designers and developers need to adopt proactive strategies. Here are some effective approaches:

1. Regular Audits

Conducting regular audits of website content and links helps identify and fix broken links promptly. Tools like Google Search Console and Screaming Frog can assist in detecting dead links.

2. Redirection Management

Implementing 301 redirects ensures that users are automatically directed to the correct page if a URL changes. This maintains the flow of traffic and preserves the site’s SEO value.

3. Content Archiving

Utilising archiving tools, such as the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, can preserve copies of web pages. This can be invaluable for maintaining access to historical content.

4. User-Friendly URLs

Designing user-friendly, descriptive URLs that are less likely to change helps ensure that links remain valid over time. Consistency in URL structure can prevent many instances of content loss.

5. Monitoring External Links

Since many dead links are due to external sites disappearing, regularly checking and updating these links is crucial. Offering alternatives or citing multiple sources can reduce the impact of external link loss.


The reality that the internet is disappearing poses significant challenges for web users and designers alike. However, by adopting strategic measures, it is possible to mitigate the effects of content loss. Regular audits, effective redirection, content archiving, user-friendly URLs, and monitoring external links are all essential practices. By staying proactive, web designers can help preserve the integrity and accessibility of online content, ensuring a more stable and reliable internet for all.