A newsletter reader asked a question this week that I was able to answer. However, I bet many other folks have the same question so I decided to publish the answer here so that everyone can see it.
Geocities has announced the online hosting service is shutting down. This has been a very popular provider of free web pages, especially amongst genealogists. I suspect there are there are thousands of genealogy sites stored on Geocities. All of them will disappear within a few months. Some other free web hosting services have also closed their doors recently and I wouldn't be surprised if more such services close up within the next few months. As a result, thousands of genealogists are moving their web sites to other hosting services.
The question asked this week was simple: "What is the best way to let people know about the link update? I have so many sites that link to my [old] site. I hate those dead links."
The answer is simpler than what you might think. All you have to do is send a quick e-mail to everyone that has a link to your old site and ask them to change that link to point to your new site. And just how do you find all those sites that link to your old site? Use the genealogist's magic tool called "Google."
Google has a nifty feature that finds links to a specific web site. To find all the sites that point to your old web site, go to www.Google.com and enter the word "link" followed by a colon followed by the old web site's URL (address).
For instance, let's use an example where your old web site was at http://www.geocities.com/stevebennett/ (that address is fictitious). To find all the web sites that link to that address, go to http://www.Google.com and enter the following into the search box:
That will show you all the web sites that Google knows about that have a link to http://www.geocities.com/stevebennett/. You can then visit each site or perform a WHOIS command to see who owns each web site. You then send that person a note and ask him to change the link from http://www.geocities.com/stevebennett/ to your new web site's address.
If you would like to practice the "link:" command with a known web site, go to www.Google.com and enter this:
This last example will show the pages that link to this newsletter's web site.
NOTE: The WHOIS command will show you all the public information about a web site, including the owner's name and e-mail address if that owner has elected to make that information public. Not all web site owners choose that option so some domain owners will be "unlisted." In addition, the WHOIS command will only show the site's owners, not individual subscribers who host their web pages on a subsection of that web site, such as in the case of Geocities.
There are several methods of conducting a WHOIS command. Perhaps the simplest is at http://www.whois.net.