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Robust Links

Guide to using robust links and preventing reference rot.

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Introduction to Robust Links

Robust links are how researchers combat reference rot and preserve the resources they are citing and basing their work upon. Also known as "links that refuse to die", robust links are a digital preservation project created and run by the Prototyping team at Los Alamos National Laboratory's Research Library.

Reference rot happens when one of the following events happen: a link breaks or leads to a 404 page; the content being linked drifts to another page, becoming lost; websites change hands and change content. See our citations and reference management guide for more information on reference/link rot.

Websites like the Internet Archive and can take snapshots of pages, but they rely upon the idea that their archives will remain online in perpetuity, which is often not the case (e.g. the now-defunct

Robust links are made of several components:

  1. Creating a snapshot of a referenced resource in a publicly available web archive (e.g. Internet Archive)
  2. Decorating links with a unique resource identifier (URI) of the snapshot, a date time of archiving, and the resource's original URI.

Creating a robust link involves the following steps:

  1. Express the creation date of your pages in a machine-actionable manner, using the approach.
  2. Inject the robust links JavaScript and CSS into your pages (code snippet available at the Robust Links webpage).
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