Net Buzz

BOSTON (05/15/2000) - Broken hyperlinks - "link rot" in the vernacular - are the bane of Web site operators and surfers. Studies show that good links go bad after only 44 days on average, which means the Internet's 1.5 billion pages (who counts these things anyway?) are littered with signs that lead straight to Highway 404 Not Found. But you knew that.

What you might not know is that a London-based start-up called LinkGuard is promising to greatly reduce this pain with a series of link-monitoring and link-repairing services built upon a map of the Internet the company is assembling in a monstrous 4-terabyte database.

"We think links are just as important as content," says Franck Jeannin, LinkGuard founder and CEO.

As Jeannin notes, there are already hundreds of software tools available that can help Webmasters identify and log broken hyperlinks on their sites. What they don't do is fix those broken links. That process today is tedious, labor-intensive, expensive and, in too many cases, largely ignored.

The gist of the LinkGuard service is that a software agent on a customer's HTTP server watches for links that change, coordinates those changes with the 4-terabyte database, and helps ensure that visitors hitting the old links find their way to the fresh ones. LinkGuard also addresses broken inbound links, a traffic-sapping problem that Jeannin believes is just as important. The service sends alerts to Webmasters on sites whose links are no longer in sync with a LinkGuard customer, alerts that have generated a 40% correction rate so far, he says.

A "critical mass" of customers is needed to reap the full benefits of that database, Jeannin says, and LinkGuard is working with Exodus Communications Inc. to get all of the needed hardware deployed within three months.

"Everything else is simple," Jeannin says. "The only difficulty is size."

Workmen knocking down a wall at ITworld.com, our corporate cousins whose offices are above Network World, busted a pipe that sent torrents of water directly onto a 3Com Corp. SuperStack II 3300 switch in one of our wiring closets. A fire hose could not have scored a more direct hit, and the gusher quickly flooded the closet and an adjacent cubicle.

Yet the SuperStack took a lickin' and kept on tickin' until our IT folks donned their scuba gear to power that sucker down.

By Wednesday morning repairs were continuing on the office space, and electricians were tinkering with the building's wiring system . . . and that switch seemed none the worse for wear.

Today we'll make a minor exception: Is it possible that cutesy-pie press coverage of episodes such as the "ILOVEYOU" virus only encourages young hackers to believe that their destructive behavior is more of a game than a crime? I'm talking about all of this "bitten by the love bug" stuff in headlines and on TV.

Granted, no one shot up a high school here, but if these attacks are a serious problem for corporate America - and they are - then maybe the press ought to treat them that way. Save Cupid for Valentine's Day.

Quick, someone help me down off this soapbox before I get hurt.

Send your tips and thoughts - even of the media-bashing variety - to buzz@nww.com.

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