W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > July 1999

404 errors, Search Engines, and a new meta-tag

From: Ray Benjamin <rbenjam2@tampabay.rr.com>
Date: Fri, 09 Jul 1999 09:33:38 -0400
Message-Id: <4.1.19990709093040.00a2c730@pop-server>
To: www-html@w3.org

I originally submitted this suggestion to the Mozilla wish list, but it was
pointed out to me that the W3C would be a more appropriate forum.  So here

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a good way for search engines to prune
entries that returned 404 errors  without having to depend 
on spiders?

A friend of mine, Marco Mason, and I were talking about ways to reduce 404
errors, especially those returned when you click on 
a link delivered by a search engine.  After giving it some thought, we came
up with a possible strategy:

1) Define a new meta-tag such as Error-Handler, that could be added to
documents created by search engines, or anyone else who 
wants to take advantage of this feature.  The Error-Handler tag would take
two arguments, the error number it is supposed to 
handle, such as 404, and an email address in the form

2) When the browser sees this tag on a page, it knows that if it gets the
error, it should send an email to the address with the link 
as the subject line.

Search engines could set up an automated facility to prune the list of bad
links with the help of this Meta Tag.

Obviously, there are some problems with this idea, the worst being that it
would be possible to flood the search engines with 
mail if a popular site were to go down.  Perhaps that could be handled with
a little work on the server side, a modified 404 
message might be delivered after the first few attempts to link to a
non-existent page, telling the browser that the 404 error had 
been "handled".

Thanks for your kind attention,
  Ray Benjamin
Received on Friday, 9 July 1999 09:35:34 UTC

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