There are probably more than two billion web pages. But a map of the more than 100 billion hyperlinks between servers, sites and pages has never been made – until now.

Next month, the first such map should be completed by LinkGuard, a small start-up company based in Maidenhead.

"It all started in November 1997, when I was stopped at a traffic light on a Sunday morning," says Franck Jeannin, LinkGuard's founder and head man.

"The same week, I'd been annoyed by some broken links I'd been finding and also by some automated emails I was getting. And I was thinking that if you sent an automatic email when a page moved, the broken links wouldn't happen. The first thing I did was to apply for a patent," Jeannin said.

The more his team analysed the broken links that give the familiar '404 not found' error message, the more they realised the size of the task and that a link map was needed.

Research by the Butler Group found that 'link rot' is a serious problem, with 10 percent of links - presently around 10 billion - broken.