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In a recent (now deleted) question, I proposed having a little reminder of some sort to archive links that are put in questions and answers, as they can die and much of the time there is no archive of them. TheWanderer proposed in the comments having the servers automatically archive links for us, and I am writing this to expand on the idea.


I propose having the servers automatically archive links in the Wayback Machine or archive.is whenever they are posted in questions and answers if they meet certain criteria.

While posts shouldn't depend completely on having them still work, links can be really important. If part of an article is quoted in a post, it could be useful to read the rest for more information on a subject. If we archived them, this would be really nice. Here's how exactly I'd want this to work:

If you post a question or answer with a link in it that doesn't go to a page on stackexchange.com, stackoverflow.com, or any of their subdomains, the link would be opened in the Wayback Machine or archive.is. Then it would go through these checks:

  • If there were no archives of the link, it would wait a few hours and then save the link if the post were still open in order to not waste resources saving links from spam, troll, and off-topic posts.
  • If there were any archives but the most recent were older than a certain amount of time, it would be saved (to decrease the amount of unnecessary saving of very similar versions of pages in the Internet Archive).
  • If a new link were added to a post that fit the other criteria, it would be saved.
  • A related older discussion: Archiving links referenced in questions. (However, it's not tagged as feature request.) – Martin Jul 20 at 8:02
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    I could be wrong, but I believe that it costs money to have pages uploaded to the internet archive via an API or other automated means (if it's even possible to automate at all). Due to the huge number of pages that would be linked on StackExchange, I imagine this feature request would be prohibitively expensive – angussidney Jul 20 at 8:15
  • Of more use would be some manner of archive that keeps YouTube video links alive, – Richard Jul 20 at 13:22
  • @angussidney well couldn't it just go to web.archive.org/https://example.com and then click save if there were no save, otherwise looking at the text for when the last one was from? I don't think it'd need to use the API necessarily. – Stormblessed Jul 20 at 13:55
  • @Stormblessed I mean, it is possible to emulate a web request to the save page URL... But there is a big difference between what is physically possible, and what is legally allowed by the Internet Archive's terms of service – angussidney Jul 21 at 0:35
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    @angussidney no, it does not cost money to upload pages to the Internet Archive. Back when I worked at IA on the Wayback, I encouraged StackExchange to set up this kind of archiving for every external reference from StackExchange. Wikipedia already does it, no money changes hands. – Greg Lindahl Jul 23 at 19:56
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    @GregLindahl looks like I was wrong - thanks for clearing that up! In that case, I think this would be a great FR – angussidney Jul 23 at 22:13
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    From the comments above it seems that the main objections have been technical difficulties and possible cost. From Greg Lindahl's comment I gather that this is actually technically possible and it could actually be free. @GregLindahl (or anybody who knows how this was done on WP) - explaining this in a bit more detail would be appreciated. (That's the reason why I offered a bounty.) – Martin Jul 25 at 10:23
  • @GregLindahl - really, that's automatic? When I've added references to Wikipedia, it asked me to put in an archive URL, but I had to manually archive it. – user58 Jul 25 at 11:49
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  • I use archive.is on all URLs that I add in my questions or answers, except ones which point to redundant or well-known information (manpages, Linux source code, Wikipedia articles, etc.). It would be very nice if links were automatically archived. Perhaps someone could contact the Archive Team (they're on EFnet). – The forest of Reinstate Monica Jul 27 at 1:31
  • It's automatic. – Greg Lindahl Aug 12 at 5:19
  • @GregLindahl no, it's not. – Stormblessed Aug 14 at 0:35
  • @Stormblessed you yourself posted a link to the info about how it happens. – Greg Lindahl Aug 15 at 5:17
  • @GregLindahl that's about Wikipedia links, not SE ones. – Stormblessed Aug 15 at 5:44
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+50

It's probably not the solution you have envisioned, but I have written a small userscript, Stack Exchange Archivist, which adds an 'archive' button to the post menu:

archive button in post menu

It's not automatic, but that means you can decide whether archiving is useful or not for your post, and you can also archive external content in other users' posts.

You can install the userscript with this direct link or get the source code here. Note that your browser might prevent the script from opening the Wayback Machine pages. In those cases, you need to explicitly enable this for the Stack Exchange sites.

  • "Most of the times" is not correct; it'd be "most of the time" instead. Also it's not true most of the time, it's true less than half of the time. Being a native American English speaker I use and hear this phrase a lot. – Stormblessed Aug 3 at 5:22
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    Sorry, that should've been "most of the time". That's so much more common that I thought "much of the time" is slightly wrong, but I'm happy to be corrected. – Glorfindel Aug 3 at 19:33

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