Study finds internet content rapidly disappearing

A new study suggests that the internet is gradually disappearing as web pages and online content vanish. Despite the common belief that online content lasts forever, significant portions of it are being lost as pages are deleted or moved, according to recent research.

For instance, 38 percent of the webpages from 2013 have disappeared. Even more recent pages are not immune; 8 percent of those existing in 2023 are no longer available.

The disappearance often occurs when pages are deleted or relocated, rather than whole websites shutting down, as indicated by the Pew Research Center’s study. This phenomenon is leading to the loss of vast amounts of news and crucial reference content. The study found that 23 percent of news pages have at least one broken link, 21 percent of government websites include links that no longer work, and 54 percent of Wikipedia pages have references to non-existent links.

Social media is also affected, with one-fifth of tweets disappearing within months of posting.

The study involved analyzing a random sample of nearly a million webpages from Common Crawl, a service that archives parts of the internet. Researchers tracked whether these pages continued to exist between 2013 and 2023. They found that 25 percent of all pages from this period were no longer accessible. Of these, 16 percent belonged to still-existing websites, while 9 percent were from sites that no longer exist.

The findings are detailed in the report “When Online Content Disappears,” available on the Pew Research Center’s website.