The Transience of Internet Addresses

Jim Henry

I wrote this terse piece for CIS 461, Spring 1998.

  1. The problem: Internet addresses (both email and URL) are unstable.
    1. People change from one ISP to another, change schools or employers

      E.g., I have had these addresses since 1992:

    2. Providers of email reorganize (e.g., CCSU student email addresses have changed twice in 1996-98)
    3. Webmasters reorganize their sites
    4. Entire sites disappear as ISPs and companies go out of business, reorganize, etc.
  2. Costs of the problem
    1. Increased time/money needed for Internet research
    2. Difficulty of keeping in touch with acquaintances known only through the Net
  3. Solutions to the problem
    1. Always stick with the same ISP. Not a solution for everyone. Finances or geography may force one to switch.
    2. Email forwarding - Commercial providers:
      1. Pobox, my provider, offers three email IDs and one URL redirection for $15/year, slightly more for junk mail filtering and other services.
      2. Netforward is free, advertising-supported; it offers a wide variety of staid, exotic, and silly email address domains (e.g.,, etc.) The address I got with them while researching this paper didn't work too reliably, however.
      3. V3 Redirect Services specializes in URL redirection but also forwards email. (see below)
    3. Never reorganize one's Web site. Not a good long-term solution.
    4. URNs - Uniform Resource Names

      URN is a protocol still under discussion by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). It would allow resource providers to specify stable names for resources (e.g., Web pages, but potentially offline materials as well) which would be converted to the resource's current URL (or other transient address) by a URN Resolver.

    5. URL redirection - PURLs, or Permanent URLs.

      Nonprofit and government PURL servers:


      Commercial URL redirection services:

      1. Pobox
      2. Netforward
      3. V3 Redirect Services: either free (with advertisements, either by placing their banner on one's site or letting them pop up an advert page temporarily before sending one on to the main page), or $1.50/month (which also includes email forwarding). The drawback is that they encapsulate your site in an invisible frameset, so surfers with older browsers may have trouble with't and no one can bookmark individual pages within the site.
  4. Conclusion: Transience of URLs is not a major problem if one makes plans in advance to minimize it.

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