The Internet Archive has fought for 25 years to prevent the disappearance of what is on the web – and you can help

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This year the Internet Archives At 25 years. He is best known for his pioneering role in archiving the Internet via the Return machine, which allows users to see what websites looked like in the past.

Increasingly, a large part of everyday life takes place online. School, work, communication with friends and family, as well as news and pictures, can be accessed through a variety of websites. Information that was once printed, physically mailed, or kept in photo albums and notebooks can now be available only online. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed even more interactions on the web.

You might not realize that some parts of the internet are constantly disappearing. As librarians and archivists, we strengthen collective memory by preserving materials that document the cultural heritage of society, including on the web. As a citizen archivist, you can also help us save the Internet.

Disappearance certificate

People and organizations remove content from the web for a variety of reasons. Sometimes this is the result of a culture change on the Internet, such as the recent closure of Yahoo answers.

It can also be the result of following best practices in web design. When a website is updated, for example, the previous version is overwritten, unless it has been archived.

Web archiving is the process of collecting, maintaining, and providing continuous access to information on the Internet. Often this work is done by librarians and archivists, with the help of automated technologies such as web crawlers.

Web crawlers are programs that index web pages to make them available through search engines or for long-term retention. The Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization, uses thousands of computer servers to store multiple digital copies of these pages, requiring over 70 petabytes of data. It is funded by donations, grants and payments for its digitization services. More 750 million web pages are captured per day in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

Why archive?

In 2018, president Donald trump wrongly claimed via Twitter this Google had promoted on its homepage President that of Barack Obama State of the Union speech, but not his. Archived versions of the Google home page have proven that Google has, in fact, highlighted Trump’s State of the Union address in the same way. Many news organizations use the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine as a source to verify the facts of these types of claims, as screenshots alone can be easily edited.

A 2019 report from Tow center for digital journalism examined the digital archiving practices and policies of newspapers, magazines and other news producers. Interviews revealed that many news media workers either lack the resources to devote to archiving their work or misunderstand digital archiving as a backup version.

When a news item has disappeared from onlooker website one year after the publication was closed, the Press Freedom Foundation worried about what could happen when wealthy people buy websites with the intention of removing or censoring the archives. It has partnered with the Internet Archive to launch a web archive collection focused on preserving the web archives of vulnerable news outlets – and deterring billionaires from buying this type of material for censorship.

The web searches the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine for blacklivesmatter.com. Internet Archive Wayback Machine. (Internet Archive Wayback Machine)

Archiving websites that document social justice issues, such as Black lives matter, helps to explain these movements to people of the present and the future.

Archiving government websites promotes transparency and accountability. Especially during times of transition, government websites are vulnerable to deletion with the evolution of political parties.

In 2017 the Library of Congress announcement it would no longer archive every tweet, due to the growth of Twitter as a communication tool. Twitter provides the Library of Congress with the texts of tweets, not shared images or videos. Instead of a complete collection, the Library of Congress now only archives tweets of significant national significance.

A first pastel colored home page that says

Screenshot of the December 18, 1996 archived version of Beanie Babies creator Ty’s website in Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. (Internet Archive Wayback Machine)

Archived websites that document Internet culture and history, such as the Geocities Gallery, not only are they fun to watch, but they also illustrate how early websites were created and used by individuals.

Citizen archivists

Archiving the Internet is a monumental task, one that librarians and archivists cannot accomplish on their own. Anyone can be a citizen archivist and preserve history through the The Internet Archive Wayback Machine. The “Save page now”Allows anyone to freely archive a single page of a public website. Keep in mind that some websites prevent crawling and archiving of the web through special encoding or by requiring site login. This could be due to sensitive content or the personal preference of the web developer.

Local cultural heritage institutions, such as libraries, archives and museums, also actively archive the Internet. More than 800 establishments use Archive it, an Internet Archive tool, for creating archived web collections. At University of Dayton we keep collections related to our Catholic and Marianist heritage, from Catholic blogs to stories of the Virgin Mary in the news.

Thanks to his Spontaneous event collections, Archive-It partners with organizations and individuals to create collections of “event-specific web content, capturing risky content in times of crisis”.

Likewise, he created the Community Website Program, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, to help public libraries create collections of archived web content relevant to local communities.

Today’s websites are the historical evidence of tomorrow, but only if they are archived. If lost, we will lose crucial information about business and government decisions, modern communication methods such as social media, and social movements with a significant online presence, such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo.

In collaboration with librarians and archivists, you can help ensure the survival of this evidence and safeguard the history of the Internet.The conversation

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