Alex Tew’s Million Dollar Homepage was a Web phenomenon. In 2005, then a student, Alex launched www.milliondollarhomepage.com, and offered prospective buyers pieces of digital real estate on the site at the cost of $1/pixel. What they did with those pixels was up to them. But after Alex made his millions and as time went on, the links began to rot and John Bowers’s piece from 2017 discussed that digital decay:
Internet links are not always permanent. As pages are deleted or renamed, backends are restructured, and domain namespaces change hands, previously reachable content and resources can be replaced by 404 pages. This “link rot” is the target of the Library Innovation Lab’s Perma.cc project, which allows individuals and institutions to create archived snapshots of webpages hosted at a trustable, static URLs.
Over the decade or so since the Million Dollar Homepage sold its last pixel, link rot has ravaged the site’s embedded links. Of the 2,816 links that embedded on the page (accounting for a total of 999,400 pixels), 547 are entirely unreachable at this time. A further 489 redirect to a different domain or to a domain resale portal, leaving 1,780 reachable links. Most of the domains to which these links correspond are for sale or devoid of content.
Link rot pervades the Web as a whole. In May 2021, researchers found that 72% of “deep links” on the NTY website (external links from the NYT domain to non-homepages) from 1998 were rotted.