Wednesday, August 04, 2010

No such thing as a Microsoft permalink, part 2

While I’m at it, let me remind us all of some interesting HTTP result codes1:
  • 301: Moved Permanently
  • 307: Temporary Redirect, or alternatively 302: Found (elsewhere; continue to use this link in the future though, as it may get moved)
  • 410: Gone
Microsoft has enough storage capability and page-identity capability (GUIDs anyone?) that we could always respond with one of the above HTTP results for any link that we have ever put up on our public websites. The first would be in the event of a reorganization of content. The second would be for whatever forward links we’d created, even if “Temporary” would be a bit of a misnomer. (i.e., it’s rather “perhaps temporary” or “not guaranteed to be permanent”). The last was for content that ended its lifecycle and it and its forward links have finally become deprecated.

In fact, we could go one further and provide warnings in some fashion to “near permanent” and forward links that are about to become deprecated. We could take advantage of the §14.46 Warning header, e.g., Warning code 299: Miscellaneous persistent warning, where the warning text warns (in the character set of the sender) that this particular URL will “die” on such-and-such a date, and give another constructed URL to use to get more information. (And that URL could give the Microsoft’s content deprecation policy, if any, along with perhaps a form where you can give it a URL and it can return its deprecation date.) Alternatively, we could do something more simply, and have any such to-be-deprecated links redirect (via 307) to a URL whose namespace specifically indicates its imminent deletion, e.g., Either of these two mechanisms could be used by external parties who wanted to ensure the persistence of Microsoft content upon which they depend.

Heck, we could go even one further, and spin off a 3rd party Windows Live/Azure service that did the persistence automatically for a fee, so that Microsoft is no longer responsible for ancient, deprecated content, except in that it supports our own cloud services: Microsoft Web Vault.

In any case, 3rd party publishers could use these mechanisms if2 they wanted to ensure their publications don’t become obsolete too early.
1 See also RFC 2616 §10.
2 Not always a good assumption. Publishers like people to buy successive editions of their software documentation at least as much as software publishers like people to buy successive editions of their software.

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