I no longer maintain a special page of links, as was the norm on the early web. The final two links on arts & ego’s traditional page were to Peter Philpott’s modern poetry and Jen Dick’s Paris Readings and Events List.

As time goes by, websites change, or vanish, and corresponding links break. When my verification software reports that a once valid link is broken, I usually substitute a reference to the appropriate internet archive page. This doesn’t always work, but it usually fixes the problem. It does mean that arts & ego is dependent on the wayback machine’s continued existence.

Despite occasional requests, I won’t generally embed third party content. I certainly won’t embed adverts; I dislike propaganda and corruption, and I would want to control layout, colour, background, behaviour, etc., which I suspect would be completely unacceptable to the advert owner. Having said that, I have occasionally added a link to an external website at their request, because I consider it relevant to this site’s content at the point of embedding (for example, linking to advice on preventing identity theft on a page about identity theft).

Note, incidentally, a link does not mean I endorse the linked site, or any other site for that matter. In particular, do not presume my link means the other end is genuine. I don’t know. I’m clueless. I think the other site’s interesting, that’s all. A link from arts & ego to another site does not validate it.

I have never accepted payment for a link, beyond, in the early days, that of a link back. I value arts & ego’s editorial independence, and have never received an offer that clearly intended to preserve it. This is probably because, so far as I can tell, the number of genuine visitors to arts & ego can be counted on the back of one finger.

image: tempsford

Links can be HTTP, which is open, or HTTPS, which offers encrypted communication and some validation that the site linked is what it claims to be. I’ve now decided to only embed valid HTTPS links. If something only works with HTTP, but not HTTPS, then I will generally reference the corresponding internet archive page.

Until recently, that requirement for HTTPS wouldn’t have worked, because many domain suppliers used HTTPS certificates to rip off customers, and many website owners rightly refused to play ball.

Website owners had once to pay those dubious domain suppliers rather a lot of money to buy HTTPS certificates, sometimes hundreds of euros, for something that probably took the suppliers five minutes to prepare (using, for example, openssl). The certificate issuers were supposed to verify the identity of the purchaser, but all many did was ensure payment was receiving through the banking system, and presume the banks would have verified their customer’s information before permitting a payment to be made. The rare honourable and careful domain supplier may even have checked the payer’s name and the supposéd website owner’s name had something in common.

This situation eased when some ISPs started offering free HTTPS links with their hosting service. That’s when arts & ego introduced HTTPS certificates.

Fortunately for everyone, the new(–ish) free and generally recognised let’s encrypt service allows any site to obtain HTTPS certificates for free. They’re not suitable where more than simple website owner verification is necessary, such as when the site processes payments (arts & ego passes that buck to paypal), but it’s sufficient for most.

Let’s encrypt means getting an HTTPS certification no longer requires being ripped off by shady organisations. arts & ego recently started to use let’s encrypt for its own certificates. Indeed, it’s why I believe I can now safely restricted embedded external links to those sites that use HTTPS.