By Judith Maginnis Kuster
We all deal with change--some welcome, some just frustrating, some devastating.
One change frustrating to me personally was a change in the name of the university where I teach. You may ask, "What's the big deal, changing the name from Mankato State University to Minnesota State University, Mankato? Besides little annoyances such as ordering new stationary and business cards, a name change like that shouldn't be much of a bother."
A big frustration for me occurred last May when the university shut down the server address--www.mnsu.edu--and all e-mail addresses with mankato.msus. That meant that anyone linking to any of my materials on the Internet using the mankato.msus URL (uniform resource locator--the address of a Web site) would get a message "that server is not available."
My Stuttering Home Page appeared at the top of the list in many search engines when searchers typed in "stuttering." When search engines discovered it was a dead link, several dropped me completely. There were also more than 4000 Web pages from which people could reach the Stuttering Home Page by clicking on a link. If those pages were using the mankato.msus address, not only was the link dead, but no one could ask me what happened to it, since my old e-mail address didn't work any more either. It was like I'd fallen off the face of the earth--well, the face of the Internet anyway.
The changes I had to make illustrate what has happened to other sites that seem to have disappeared. Sometimes a forwarding service and announcement appears for a few months, leading to the new URL. When this happens, be sure to update your bookmarks.
Since no forwarding service was provided for me, permit me to announce the changes here.
The Stuttering Home Page is dedicated to providing information about stuttering for both consumers and professionals who work with people who stutter. It can be reached at either the domain name I bought (www.stutteringhomepage.com) or the new official university URL (www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/stutter.html). This site also includes several sections that people link to directly:
Why do two URLs lead to the same site? Several years ago, my URLs were even longer than the current university URLs. People were asking for URLs they could publish in articles and books that would be shorter. I am grateful they published the shorter, purchased domain name URLs. They have always worked, and always will, as long as I continue to pay for the privilege of using them.
What happens when domain names expire? I cannot put in print several formerly helpful domain name URLs I'm aware of, because they currently lead to pornographic sites. At times unscrupulous people watch popular domain name URLs and when they expire, purchase them, doing whatever they want with them. I know four cases of Web sites--one dedicated to a treatment program, one in memory of a musician, and two student treatment sites--whose domain names expired and now display pornography.
I do not want to let my domain names expire in case the university changes things again and I find myself in my current predicament. Anyone who linked to the shorter domain names did not lose the connection to my Web pages. But I also cannot let my domain names expire because many other Web sites include links to them. In addition, if the domain names were to expire anyone could buy them and do whatever they wanted with them.
How can you find Web pages that seem to have disappeared from the Internet? There are several strategies to try, including checking the URL very carefully. A typo such as hitting a comma instead of a colon or a period will make a URL non-functional. If the URL ends in a .com, you don't have to be careful of lower and upper case letters in the URL, but you DO have to be careful about that for other domains. Also, The URL may have an underscore ( _ ) in it that is obliterated if the entire URL is underlined.
The Web site may have reorganized. Deleting what is to the right of the last slash ( / ) in the URL may lead you to a reorganized index. Check a search engine, using appropriate keywords. I especially like Google or Yahoo since they feature a "cache." If the site is gone and it is still listed in either of these search engines, hitting the word "cached" after the site listing will produce a copy of what was there. This is especially useful for newspaper articles, which often disappear in a few days. If they appear in these search engines, the article is still available in the cache.
Finally, the "Wayback Machine" (http://web.archive.org) contains over 30 billion Web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago. Type in the non-functional URL to see if the site is cached in this resource.
Judith Kuster is in the department of speech, hearing, and rehabilitation services at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All of Kusters Internet columns are on the ASHA Web site in HTML format with active links http://professional.asha.org/news/news.cfm, although URLs change and there is no guarantee that links from previous articles are still functional.
Kuster, JM, Dealing With Change, ASHA Leader, November 2, 2004, p. 18