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February 25, 2010

British Library struggles to archive UK websites

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by Darren Allan

These days, we dig up old bones, coins or bits of pottery to give us clues about how people lived in the past.

The future, however, should bring a far richer source of historical records – the million and one websites in existence today, for starters, which have commented on everything that’s happened. And quite a few things that haven’t.

The British Library has been attempting to archive our country’s web landscape since 2004, and the UK Web Archive was officially launched today. However, thus far, the project hasn’t met with much success.

In fact, they’ve only managed to archive 6000 sites, when there are an estimated 8 million out there, according to a BBC report.

That’s not even one-thousandth of a percent, and the reason the number is so small is because researchers have to get permission from the owner before archiving a site.

The British Library says it needs to be given the right to archive without having to seek permission, as it is doing so in the national interest, not for any commercial gain.

Otherwise, if the process isn’t speeded up, they argue that we’ll lose a vital historical resource to a “digital black hole”, as the average life expectancy of a UK website is just a couple of months.

Story link: British Library struggles to archive UK websites


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