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Back to the Past – The Internet Archive

Do you enjoy travelling back in time? Seeing what your own homepage looked like ten years ago? Listening to a great concert you visited? Reading an old, sold out book? Here comes what you are looking for!

The Internet Archive is the largest web archiving organization based on a crawling approach and a long-term project initiated by Brewster Kahle. The idea is to make a copy of the web and archive all content that is freely available including websites, books and software, recordings and movies. Recently, the archive has begun to offer services related to the information access needs of people who do not read print.

One of its most famous services is the Wayback Machine which documents the evolution of the web from 1996 on. It shows old versions of websites including images and currently comprises of more than 150 billion pages. It is easy to use and a great pleasure to browse the digital past. If you want to see what the BBC presented on May 20th 1998 in comparison to today, this is it:

:: Screenshot BBC Website from May 20th 1998, via Wayback Machine watch online

A side project of the Internet Archive is the open library project. It aims to create a website for every single book published until now. So far more than one million books are available and even fully searchable through an OCR layer (optical character recognition).

Parts of the books can only be borrowed physically but many can be read online, such as Mark Twain’s Adventures of Hucklberry Finn or Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Besides publishing houses and archives also users are addressed to enrich the collection with descriptions and metadata.

In addition to this, the Internet Archive maintains huge collections of audiovisual media in the public domain or under a license that allows redistribution. The collections are organized into sub-collections by various criteria and range from movies and featurettes to newsreels and cartoons as well as pro- and anti-war content. Along with specific collections covering various events, users can find material on the US election (2004/2008) as well as the terror attacks on September 11th.

The selected video below shows a silent movie from 1921, starring Buster Keaton.

:: Buster Keation (Hard Luck)

The Internet Archive is a non-profit initiative with an annual budget of 10 million dollars and is located in San Francisco, California. Its archive currently has the gigantic size of more than six petabytes of data. This is roughly the equivalent of 1.5 billion text bibles. A mirror of the archive ensuring stability and endurability is situated at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt.

Internal note:
The European Project ARCOMEM – Deutsche Welle is part of the consortium – is currently investigating how the heritage of social media such as Twitter tweets, YouTube and Facebook content can be archived, exploited and memorized.

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