How to keep linked content available with Amber

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Link rot happens for lots of reasons. A website goes out of business. A redesign moves web pages around. A domain name doesn’t get renewed. A person—or government—removes a post. The changes all create the same problem: a broken link.

Amber, a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, helps you keep your links working. When you make a link from a webpage on your site to another site, Amber will take a snapshot of the linked site and save it. As long as the link works, a tap (or click) will take visitors to the intended page. When the links fails, Amber will offer to show the snapshot of the saved content (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure AFigure A
If a linked site isn’t available, Amber offers visitors access to a snapshot of the content.

Amber works with your WordPress or Drupal content management system. Install the open source Amber plugin or module for your CMS and it will save a snapshot of every site you link to. You could take and save these manually, of course. But that would be repetitive and boring. Amber automates the process.

It takes just a minute or two to install Amber for a WordPress site:

  1. Log in to your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Go to Plugins > Add New.
  3. Search for “Amber.”
  4. Choose Install Now.
  5. Choose Activate after the installation completes.

No additional steps are necessary. Amber will start working without any more setup.

However, I recommend that you consider alternatives for two settings: where Amber stores snapshots and when snapshot updates occur. (In WordPress, you’ll find these settings from your Dashboard > Settings > Amber Settings.)

First, you may want to change where Amber stores your link snapshots. As of September 2016, you may store snapshots on your own site’s hosting space or to Amazon S3, Perma.cc, or the Internet Archive (Figure B). If you choose either of the first two external sites, you’ll need to establish an account and configure your credentials for the service. You might save snapshots to your Amazon S3 store to preserve links privately for reference. A law firm, for example, might save content from all links to external sites. Academics might place snapshots on Perma.cc to permalink to research information. In addition to your site’s storage, the Internet Archive is the simplest choice: You don’t need an account to store snapshots there.

Figure B

Figure BFigure B
Store snapshots of sites you link to on your own site, Amazon S3, Perma.cc, or at the Internet Archive.

SEE: Amazon Web Services: The smart person’s guide

Next, choose whether Amber periodically updates the snapshots—or not (Figure C). The “no updates” option preserves the content from your initial link, which might be useful for a news site, for example. Snapshot updates may be helpful if target content changes, such as if you link to support pages that change frequently. There’s no single “right” answer for this setting. Choose what makes sense for your site and links.

Figure C

Figure CFigure C
Choose whether to capture a snapshot once or to capture updates from linked pages periodically.

If you run a WordPress or Drupal site, I encourage you to set up Amber today. Think of all the links lost when GigaOm.com was changed, WebWorkerDaily.com was deleted, and ReadWriteWeb.com was renamed. With a few minutes of work, you’ll ensure that your site visitors will at least always be able to see a snapshot of the content once delivered from the links you create—even after the links decay or sites go away.

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