Whitney Houston sings “Where do broken hearts go?” Me, I have often wondered what becomes of broken or lost Web pages — you know, the URLs that used to work but now display a 404 or file not found error. Are these pages deleted from the servers? Or have they just been unlinked? And what do I do if I really need the information and it’s now gone?
You’ll be glad to know that there is a whole movement devoted to changing the content of the Internet from ephemera to artifacts. Internet libraries are springing up everywhere to catalog and preserve Web pages, images, even audio and video files.
The largest (I think) Internet Library is the Internet Archive, a “nonprofit organization dedicated to building and maintaining a free and openly accessible online digital library, including an archive of Web.” The archive is a collection of snapshots of Web pages from the around the world, taken at various points in time.
Use the Wayback Machine, type in your company’s URL and try not to cringe as you browse pages from five years ago. Check out the archive for the Matrix Group Web site; talk about a trip down memory lane.
The Internet Archive also has special Web collections (or links) for specific topics, like the Asian Tsunami or the 2002 Election. Just think about how much content is online from this year’s election and how much of the news and information you relied on to make your choice is online. The question is: will it be online next year and what will we have lost as a society when that content is gone?
Other terrific Internet libraries include:
- Online Computer Library Center
- Alexa Internet
- Library of Congress
- Project Gutenberg
- World Digital Library
- Alexandria Digital Library
In addition, Google takes a snapshot of each page it examines and caches (stores) that version as a back-up. That’s why every search results page on Google has a link to the page and the cached version, which is what Google indexes and searches.
Thank goodness for libraries!