A recent article in the New Yorker brought my attention to the Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine (“The Cobweb”, Jan. 26). To me, the digital information has always suggested an ultimate ethereality, a sense that everything produced in digital format defined by its impermanence (the article suggests that the average Web site life-span is around 100 days). But, the Internet Archive is challenging this idea by building a library of Web pages that has, since 1996, saved over 455 billion of them (apparently a full 20 billion in the couple months since the article was written).
Internet archive is made possible through the use of the Wayback Machine, a software robot that 'crawls' diligently around the Net copying and archiving pages. Aditionally, people are able to contribute by selecting internet content that they think should be preserved. This is an interesting new opportunity for the various fields of heritage preservation as it seems to provide a localized and robust place to store publicly accessible information.
The article also cites the interesting fact that Twitter has made a deal to have all of it's tweets archived at the Library of Congress. Having predicted its own continued cultural significance, Twitter is trying to preserve itself as resource for future research even as the record is being created. This Ozymandian effort raises a number of questions for me regarding the relationship between heritage material, it's production and its preservation..