Since the dawn of the digital age, billions and billions of web pages have populated Internet websites. This week we have shared snapshots of several current social networking sites, and studied the “Conversation Prism” constructed by Brian Solis, which maps hundreds of the most popular social networking sites. Last week, we wrote obituaries for websites that are now defunct.
But where does all this data go when these websites have their servers severed? Does it drift off into cyberspace and get sucked into a black hole, like George Clooney in Gravity? Does it get stored in an aircraft carrier-sized warehouse like the Ark of the Covenant in “Raiders of the Lost Ark?”
Perhaps Mr. Peabody knows.
He’s the historian, time-traveling talking dog in the 1950’s TV cartoon, “Peabody’s Improbable History.” Along with his sidekick, Sherman, Mr. Peabody traveled back in time in his “Wayback Time Machine” to preserve history the way it is written in history books. Peabody’s machine inspired the “Wayback Machine” an ambitious digital archive of the internet created by the Internet Archive, a not for profit group based in San Francisco.
The Internet Archive is a free online storehouse of digital media and gets 2 to 3 million visitors a day to its website. Sign up for a free “virtual library card” and you can be one of those visitors. The incredible “Wayback Machine” contains over 450 billion webpages. Yes that’s billion, with a “b.” And it’s growing every day.
Mr. Brewster Kahle is the mastermind behind this project and like Mr. Peabody he is out to preserve history. Mr. Kahle developed software that crawls the web and pulls in snapshots of pages that are available to the public. The Wayback Machine’s mission is to capture and archive content that otherwise might be lost when a site is changed or closed down. His modest goal is to archive the entire Internet. (Hmm, suddenly my goals seem embarrassingly inadequate.)
Try as he may, however, it’s an impossible task. Not every website has been saved in the library. It does not include data that’s restricted by its publishers and the archive respects the rights of owners who opt for the date not to appear in search results or cached.
But you will find an overwhelming amount of internet information, including now defunct sites like…JenniCam (1996-2004) the first really successful “lifecasting” website, boo.com (1998-200), one of the first online fashion retailers, even “nupedia” (2000-2003) the precursor to Wikipedia.
The Internet Archive’s latest focus has been on archiving hundreds of thousands of news reports, music libraries, concerts, political advertising, even television shows.
Ironically, you can even find the movie version of Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Hopefully, the old cartoon series will be located somewhere in cyberspace and added here too!