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The Internet Archive, located at the Presidio in San Francisco, California, is dedicated to maintaining an archive of multimedia resources. This archive includes "snapshots of the World Wide Web" (archived copies of pages, taken at various points in time), software, movies, books, and audio recordings (including recordings of live concerts from bands that allow it). The Archive makes the collections available at no cost to researchers, historians, and scholars.
According to its website:
- Most societies place importance on preserving artifacts of their culture and heritage. Without such artifacts, civilization has no memory and no mechanism to learn from its successes and failures. Our culture now produces more and more artifacts in digital form. The Archive's mission is to help preserve those artifacts and create an Internet library for researchers, historians, and scholars. The Archive collaborates with institutions including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian.
Because of its goal of preserving human knowledge and artifacts, and making its collection available to all, proponents of the archive have likened it to the Library of Alexandria.
Examples from the Wayback Machine's archives:
The archive also maintains the "Wayback Machine", with content from Alexa Internet. This service allows users to see archived versions of web pages, what the Archive calls a "three dimensional index".
The Wayback Machine's archive is gradually made available. It can take from six to twelve months for an archived snapshot to appear. As an alternative, librarians and scholars who want to permanently archive material and immediately cite an archived version can use the Archive-It system instead. As of 2004 the Wayback Machine contained approximately a petabyte of data and was growing at a rate of 20 terabytes per month, increasing by two thirds the 12 terabytes/month growth rate reported in 2003. Its growth rate eclipses the amount of text contained in the world's largest libraries, including the Library of Congress.
A copy of the data is also maintained at Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
The name "Wayback Machine" is a reference to a segment from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in which Mr. Peabody, a bowtie-wearing dog with a professorial air, and his human assistant, Sherman, use a time machine called the "WABAC machine" to witness famous events in history.
Most of their movies, books, and recordings are public domain or licensed under a Creative Commons License. The audio section largely includes music from independent artists, as well as more established artists and musical ensembles with permissive rules in regards to the recording of their concerts (e.g. The Grateful Dead, String Cheese Incident, Toad the Wet Sprocket, 311, Fugazi, etc.).
The Internet Archive operates the Open Library where a small number of scanned public domain books are made available in an easily browsable and printable format.
Moving Image Collection
Aside from feature films, their Moving Image collection includes: newsreels; classic cartoons; pro- and anti- war propaganda; Skip Elsheimer's "A.V. Geeks" collection; and ephemeral material from Prelinger Archives, such as advertising, educational and industrial films and amateur and home movie collections.
Their Brick Films collection contains stop-motion animation filmed with Lego blocks, some of which are 'remakes' of feature films. The Election 2004 collection is a non-partisan public resource for sharing video materials related to the 2004 United States Presidential Election. The Independent News collection includes sub-collections such as the Internet Archive's World At War competition from 2001, in which contestants created short films demonstrating "why access to history matters." Among their most-downloaded video files are eyewitness recordings of the devastating 2004 tsunami.
Some of the films available on the Internet Archive are:
In late 2002, the Internet Archive removed various sites critical of Scientology from the Wayback Machine. The error message stated that this was in response to a "request by the site owner". However, it was later clarified that lawyers from the Church of Scientology had demanded the removal, on unknown legal grounds, and that the actual site owners did not want their material removed.
Archived web pages as evidence
In an October 2004 case called "Telewizja Polska SA, Inc. v. Echostar Satellite", the Wayback Machine archives were used as a source of admissible evidence, perhaps for the first time. Telewizja Polska is the provider of TVP Polonia, and EchoStar operates the Dish Network. During the trial's proceedings, EchoStar offered Wayback Machine snapshots as proof of the past content of Telewizja Polska’s website. Telewizja Polska attempted to suppress the snapshots on the grounds of hearsay and unauthenticated source, but Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys rejected Telewizja Polska’s assertion of hearsay and accepted an affidavit from an Internet Archive employee as sufficient to authenticate the snapshots for admissibility.
In November 2005, free downloads of Grateful Dead concerts were removed from the site. John Perry Barlow identified Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann as the instigators of the change, according to a New York Times article. Phil Lesh commented on the change in a November 30, 2005 posting to his personal website:
- It was brought to my attention that all of the Grateful Dead shows were taken down from Archive.org right before Thanksgiving. I was not part of this decision making process and was not notified that the shows were to be pulled. I do feel that the music is the Grateful Dead's legacy and I hope that one way or another all of it is available for those who want it.
A November 30 forum post from Brewster Kahle summarized what appeared to be the compromise reached among the band members. Audience recordings could be downloaded or streamed, but soundboard recordings were to be available for streaming only.
- Alexa Internet
- Digital library
- Digital preservation
- Link rot
- Project Gutenberg
- Universal library
- Web crawler
Wayback Machine archives as legally admissible evidence
- Internet Archive’s Web Page Snapshots Held Admissible as Evidence, from a Stanford University website
Grateful Dead controversy
- Wrath of Deadheads stalls Web crackdown, a New York Times story via the International Herald Tribune
- Phil Lesh's Hotline, where a November 30 2005 message commented on the controversy
- Good News and an Apology: GD on the Internet Archive, Brewster Kahle's forum post at archive.org
- The Internet Archive
- The Open Library
- Petabox, a useful invention created in collaboration with the Internet Archive
- Wayback Machine
- Pictures and descriptions of the Wayback Machine hardware, with cost information
- Form 990-PF for Internet Archive (2003)
- Archive-It 1.5 Press Release and Archive-It FAQ
- Warrick - a tool for recovering websites from the Internet Archive and search engine caches
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