ESL Links

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I have just cleaned out our links database and if it is anything like a representative sample of the ESL industry on the web, things are looking grim.  We had just under 3,000 links when I started and have just under 2,500 now.  It's a particularly dull and time-consuming job and I do it about once a year, though I skipped last year as I was on a slowish connection. Even so, it's a lot of dead links and right across the board.

Schools, job sites, language exchanges, lessons by Skype, as well as personal sites and blogs had gone.  There were many dead pages, often where a service was no longer available publicly, but the number of sites going down was scary. A school shutting down a website doesn't necessarily mean it has gone out of business, but it does suggest that, at best, the website didn't meet expectations, and as most links are submitted, these are sites that were actively being promoted.  Depressingly, cheat sites seem to be immune to the recession- new ones get submitted pretty much every week (and rejected). 

I wasn't surprised to see some job sites going as so many appeared in the last couple of years, but I was surprised by the number of online VOIP lessons sites that have gone as I'd thought this was an area that would do well.  A fair few of the Web 2 start-ups that announced themselves with much fanfare have also gone.  I tried a links database on an ESL site that hasn't been updated much for a few years to look further back and it has turned into a graveyard.

A few years ago, dead URLs were being snapped up by porn sites, but they seem to have abandoned ship - in fact this time there was only one link where a dead ESL school URL went to a webcam porn site - and the most common replacements were standard holding pages with Google ad links disguised as further searches.

Over half of the links ever submitted here have died and been removed in under a decade; even if people are more careful now, it's still a horrific rate of attrition.   In, say, twenty years ESL on the web, and indeed the web in general, will be lucky to look like a Swiss cheese, with countless links pointing to error messages and holding pages, making it harder and harder to understand many of the texts that remain.  Going through and clearing the database really brought home just what a problem link rot is.  Wonderful as it is, the web is starting to age.  It is very good at handling the present, but the past's turning into a mess.

Categories: UsingEnglish Content


It sounds like a slog, Richard...but as the word goes, "It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it."

You're very difficult to contact.

I can't access some of my previous email accounts.

I'd lie to discuss something with you and if you want to reply, you have my latest email, above.

I think Fort Knox would be easier to penetrate than a simple email to you!:-)

All right, so the web is starting to/or is..ageing. ESL and any websites pertaining thereto are losing to attrition.

Yes, I have noticed this, and I appreciate your doing the work to show what's been going on in the past.

My questions are "Why the attrition?", and "Why the dead websites"? But more: "What do WE do now?"

ESL is as needed and sought after as ever, so is it the massive great WEB which is becoming a Swiss cheese (and, that, I can well believe) or is it a deadening of interest in ESL, or an overflow of resources to teach and learn ESL at extremely low prices? (I've seen 7$ an hour to teach ESL, with all included, TOEFL tests etc., in Montreal recently.) What teacher will teach for 7$ an hour? Yet that's what they're offering, and I hate to say it, but the teaching is good.

I don't want to present a negative attitude. I don't think there's any need.

There is a need, though, a great need, to find out what the heck's happening - I don't believe at all that ESL is dying. That the WEB is falling apart is a possibility, and, if that is so, then we must find alternates, because our ESL and this website cannot be held hostage to the murmurings of a possibly dying era - that of the prevously mighty WEB.

The past has to be examined in order to prepare for the future.So...let us prepare for the future:-)

I don't think the wheels are coming off the web, but the shine probably is. In ESL, I think there are many factors at play on the web. In some cases, most notably the job sites, the was over-expansion- several new sites cropped up targeting the Korean market alone and there's simply not the need for that many. I think economic factors are important- either there isn't that much interest in paying for VOIP lessons or they can't attract the custom, I don't really know what the problem is there.

Sites, like this one, that start out as hobby sites face problems when they grow and suddenly require things like dedicated hosting and servers, and this is a stage where it becomes difficult and some give up. This is part of the web's growing pains- the economic model of monetising sites through advertising is causing a lot of problems; Rupert Murdoch is turning his newspapers' backs on this model and going behind paywalls.

I think that language exchanges may be next as there is an imbalance in the languages offered and those sought. Some of the Web 2 start-ups were overoptimistic, part of a general trend . I saw some business plans with impressive-looking projections and figures, but they seemed more a leap of faith or wishlist than anything else.

I am not familiar with Canada, but in the UK, there is a race to the bottom, with wages reaching ridiculously low levels. I can see the economic logic of supply and demand- being a native speaker in an English-speaking country is always going to be worth less than abroad, but I have seen schools that have dropped their pay to such levels that they can no longer attract native speakers and get people like au pairs and overseas students with the CAE to teach. The market is very polarised, with a top end where salaries are reasonable to paying less than you'd get flipping burgers. I don't know if Canada has reached that level, but you can get a better hourly rate than that in developing countries and enjoy a much better standard of living. ESL in English-speaking countries is not an appealing prospect and I think it is likely to get worse

Hi Tdol,

It seems you are a bit sceptical about the viability of the language exchanges. I agree that there are a lot of language exchanges around that look old and tired and probably offer very little value to the student.

Nevertheless, we at LingoMatch are trying to change that. We want to become a central source for all language learning options in cities around the world with a quality factor driven by student reviews from our community.

Anyway, I would love to write an article for your blog on the subject if you will entertain the idea. Please let me know.

I am sorry- I missed this when you posted it. I simply noticed that language exchanges were one area where sites were closing down. I have just done another clean of the database, and this time none had closed down, so maybe the initial over-expansion has balanced itself out. It's just like the ESL job sites- there may be plenty of positions in Korea, but there are too many jobsites specialising in Korea. The Mixxer was the first language exchange that I saw, and the idea is sound, but given that sites are worldwide, how many are really needed? I saw a lot opening and closing when I posted this. This time around, things looked healthier- probably because the excess had already gone.

Here's one that you might like ! It's designed to bring the world's news to English language learners. It also provides a vocabulary list

Elizabeth Emma

You had the good storage of esl English.

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