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Perhaps I'm just crazy.. but in the last few days I've experienced a noticeable increase in the number of links to what seem like promising SO answers from a few years back, but ultimately end in the wonderful 404 page. I don't know if I've just encountered an unusual spree of URL typos, or if old [bad] content is being pruned.

Has anyone else noticed this? Further, is there a method for reporting bad links in or to older answers?

I am talking about broken links on Stack Overflow to other SO questions.

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  • 6
    SE is working on a broken link detector.
    – user102937
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 15:09
  • 1
    Links on Stack Overflow or links to Stack Overflow?
    – ChrisF Mod
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 15:09
  • Links on SO to other SO questions. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 15:10
  • You can comment to ask the poster to update the link. Additionally, if it is a link-only answer (or comment), you could flag it as NaA (or obsolete). If you are able to find the content some other way, you could update the link yourself
    – yoozer8
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 15:11
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    It's not entirely impossible that the links point to deleted questions/answers. Then it would take you to the 404 page unless you have 10k+ rep. Have you one or two examples of the dead links you came across? Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 15:15
  • @DanielFischer Here's one: stackoverflow.com/questions/60367/… I'll see if I can find a few of the other ones. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 15:21
  • Yup, deleted on 22nd February. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 15:22
  • How practical would it be to have a system that, when and answer is deleted, also removes or detects links to the question in other SO posts and notifies the author that their link is now broken? This seems like the catch22 of deleting old popular answers solely for the purpose of keeping the site slim -- it may break hundreds of other answers that reference the deleted one. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 15:27
  • 2
    Here's a crazy idea: maybe if so many people weren't obsessed with deleting everything they got near, those links would still have worked... Just a thought. The way things are going, this problem is only going to get worse. Much worse
    – jalf
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 22:41
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    I'm with @jalf on this one.... users have gotten too delete-happy in their attempts to make SO "pure" and purging all the questions they don't think meet a specific set of guidelines. A lot contain good content that has been linked to in many places, and its a shame to throw away user contribution by deleting questions just because they don't meet a few peoples view of the perfect Q&A site.
    – Rachel
    Commented Aug 7, 2012 at 16:41

3 Answers 3

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FWIW, if the answer is any good and the link is being used to provide useful supporting material, I've been checking to see if the dead page is in The Wayback Machine. If it is then I replace with the WBM link.

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  • I do the same, but it gets old pretty quick doing it manually. Hmmm....that sparks an idea...
    – Randolpho
    Commented Aug 7, 2012 at 15:21
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There was a link validator in development (see here, and ), but I don't believe it's live yet.

Unless this tool gets released, there's no way to report broken links.

Of course, as everyone can edit anything on Stack Overflow, feel free to edit the post to correct the link if at all possible. If it's unclear where the link should be pointing, it might be worth commenting on the post in question and notifiying the author, in the hope they might fix it.

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  • Yeah, I guess I can search for what the name of the answer appears to be given the URL and fix it. Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 15:13
  • Hmmm not sure if the link validator checks SE network links for 404s or not. The time-of-post validation doesn't check for 404 from SE, I know that much
    – Zelda
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 15:17
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I have a modest proposal that may help alleviate broken links:

Add the ability to search for the link on the Wayback Machine. This would allow users a second chance to get to the link if it's broken.

I figure a small dropdown menu next to links might do the trick. Clicking the original link takes you to the original url, while the dropdown allows you to search Wayback or even report a dead link.

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