Connecting Broken Links

SAN FRANCISCO (08/24/2000) - Broken links and peer-to-peer networking are as old as the Web, but each is re-examined in the week's batch of new products.

No more 404? In our last installment, Reboot checked out UltraDNS, a product that eliminates DNS errors. In a similar vein, a new company, LinkGuard, wants to wipe out the equally irksome "404 error" messages that pop up when a link connects to a page that no longer exists - a problem, according to LinkGuard, that applies to 10 percent of all Web links.

To fix it, U.K.-based LinkGuard is taking on no less of a task than mapping the Web. Its army of intelligent agents scan the Web, checking links on every page they encounter, and recording the information in a 40-terabyte database. This map of the Web is refreshed every 10 days. Thanks to this up-to-date database, LinkGuard can seamlessly point surfers in the right direction. If a page's address has changed, LinkGuard sends visitors to the new address. If a page doesn't exist, LinkGuard sends surfers to the next best page, based on each site's information directory. Some businesses might think they have more pressing problems to invest in, but LinkGuard's pay-per-fix model might convince them to sign on. Businesses pay a penny for every time LinkGuard redirects a customer from a broken link.

Peer-to-profit. Napster may be in legal trouble, but the so-called peer-to-peer network model it popularized is alive and well. These networks let individuals trade digital goods with each other instead of through a central server. The advantage, says Palo Alto, Calif.-based Lightshare, is ease of use and cost.

Instead of building a Web site or paying for hosting service, customers go directly to your PC's hard drive.

Lightshare's new service, currently in beta testing, brings transaction processing and copyright protection to the peer-to-peer model. The company claims the service lets content creators collect payments for a product, no matter how many times it's sold. Buyers can use Lightshare's payment system or alternative currencies like Beenz. Of course, the value of a peer-to-peer network depends on how many people use it. And without offering pirated content (a la Napster), will Lightshare attract the critical mass it needs to make its network viable?

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