Who is the original coiner of the word 'linkrot'? Does anyone know?

4 Answers 4


"link-rot" is mentioned in the book Reality Check by David Wieners and David Pescovitz (copyright 1996):

You can web-surf them right away, during the delicate instant of history before the URLs all shift, the connections fail, the files shift addresses, and the hotlinks give way to the curse of link-rot.

In the same year, 1996, there is mention of "link rot" (without the hyphen) in Laura Morgan's Child support guidelines: interpretation and application:

I learned about the transient nature of the internet from maintaining my website and its numerous links; each month, a number of states would change the location of the guidelines or the state agency, resulting in what is known as "link rot".

hope this helps! :)

  • 1
    So even in 1996, it was already "known as"... No one is cited as first, so far. I appreciate the links, however. Thank you very much.
    – shipr
    Commented Apr 24, 2011 at 3:52

Google ngrams shows the first instances (that look really like the meaning of links failing) being for the spelling 'link rot' around 1996: enter image description here

Notice that the much more popular spelling currently is as two words rather than one.

This doesn't really say that any particular person coined it (though of course some one could have).

  • 1
    I wonder what the alternative to "any particular person" coining linkrot would be. Maybe there were 42 people scattered around the world who simultaneously uttered "linkrot" for the first time?
    – mgkrebbs
    Commented Apr 24, 2011 at 5:50
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    @mgkrebbs: Google nGrams uses only its (humongous) set of scanned books. It doesn't cover slashdot, newsgroups, or people's email or vocal conversations (yet). Who coined the word 'dis'? Some things are knowable, some don't have an answer.as expected. Which is all to say that the ngrams data tells me that the word was 'in the air' around 1996 and before for writers to feel comfortable using it in press.
    – Mitch
    Commented Apr 24, 2011 at 13:26

The earliest instance of "link rot" that the Google version of UseNet archives shows is from 30 Oct 1996, in a humorous post by Susie Archer about "Generation X Baby BizSpeak". The list of definitions she sent out includes this:

Link Rot -- The process by which links on a web page became as obsolete as the sites they're connected to change location or die.

The post is titled "Fw: [HUMOR] Industry-related sniglets... (fwd)" so it's clear this list, and the term, was in circulation before that time.

  • I can beat that with groups.google.com/group/soc.culture.taiwan/msg/… :) it's "link ROT" alright but nothing to do with the "link rot" that we're discussing! ;) Commented Apr 24, 2011 at 19:52
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    @pageman: yes, I checked the hits for relevance. Lots of references to ROT-13 encoding.
    – mgkrebbs
    Commented Apr 24, 2011 at 23:24
  • I think this was ROC (Republic of China) but misspelled hahaha :) Commented Apr 25, 2011 at 3:51

The earliest citation I can find is to some publication by someone named Harwood c. 2000, cited in 2002.

Online components, however, are dynamic. Hyperlinks may have a short lifespan and require continual updating. On the average, at least one out of five links on college and university web sites are inoperable, a phenomenon known as "link rot" (Harwood, 2000, p. 23).

Incidentally, COCA doesn't give any hits for "linkrot" as a single word, only "link rot".

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