Re: broken links in W3C documents and recommendations

On Feb 11, 2009, at 7:00 PM, ext Larry Masinter wrote:


> I think the response should be two-fold:
> a)      When publishing a document as a Note, Working Draft or any  
> other permanent W3C publication,  the criteria for publication  
> should examine any hyperlinks in the document and attempt to assure  
> (from author or editor assertion or some other means) that there is  
> a reasonable commitment that the referenced document will be  
> available indefinitely. This policy might have prevented the current  
> situation.

I certainly agree that we should attempt to verify our bibliographic  
references. One way I'm familiar with from previous standards I've  
edited is the following:

(From the Chicago Manual of Style [1])

Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner, eds., The Founders’ Constitution  
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 
  (accessed June 27, 2006).

I would suggest adding a 'last accessed' date to references that  
contain links.

> b)      In cases where current W3C permanent publications contain  
> links that are broken (discovered either automatically or noted and  
> reported by an individual), I suggest the W3C create a permanent  
> “reference” page for the now-broken hyperlink, add to the  
> “reference” page some possible alternative sources of the same  
> document, and change the hyperlink in the W3C document to point to  
> the “reference” page.
> For example, one might create a web page:
> which could contain:
>                   A W3C document originally contained a pointer to
>                That document is no longer available, but an  
> alternate source for that document can be found at
> The goal is to establish a general way of dealing with “broken  
> links” by replacing them with “cool” URIs maintained under W3C  
> control.

The question I have is whether it is important that URL references  
always work? Isn't the intent that a human has enough information in  
the reference to search for the referenced document herself if the  
automated mechanism results in a broken reference?

And secondly, the link to the 'broken links' document is not itself a  
bibliographic reference to the original referenced document. Thus we  
have introduced a new indirection .  Why would we not instead simply  
update the original document's references section with something like  
the text you propose, rather than creating a new 'broken links'  
document? Does there actually need to be a 'cool URI' in the reference?


- johnk


Received on Thursday, 12 February 2009 16:43:50 UTC