Digital Civilizations Lost: The Great Need for Web Archiving
Do you agree our love of history is driven by an insatiable "need to know"? We wonder about "lost" civilizations and make careers out of piecing together physical artifacts from the past. What, then, is to become of our digital future?
A similar question is asked in this article published on The Economist's website. Just as some of Hanzo's previous blog posts have pointed out, once web content is lost through any means (website refreshes, operating system and software updates, etc.) it's gone forever. There's nothing to "...piece back together." As if to illustrate this very point, the author of the article mentioned above reports original pages from The Economist's own website are now lost.
Remember GeoCities? In its heyday (1999), it ranked third on the list of most visited websites. Then, Yahoo! purchased it and eventually (2009) shut down the service in the U.S., leaving Yahoo! GeoCities Japan as the sole survivor.
Approximately 38 million web pages were created by countless GeoCities subscribers. Though valiant efforts were made by the Internet Archive (among others) to preserve more than 15 years' worth of online contributions from the GeoCities' vast community, they couldn't prevent a substantial loss of content. A mass extinction of a digital civilization in minutes.
Though much thought and effort does go into preserving historical record and other physical artifacts using digital means, that tremendous work is also in danger of being lost if not captured and preserved in a native format web archive. Look at any website; there are embedded links to additional content (web pages, online videos, etc.), which will disappear as well. Historical records contain born physical artifacts. Web archives containt born digital artifacts.
The same challenge applies to corporate brands and their cultural heritage. Aside from the eDiscovery and information governance aspects of web archiving, there's also the complexity of overall online brand presence. Ask yourself: Where did your brand originate? What legacy do you want to leave behind for future employees and customers to embrace about your brand's history? If you aren't web archiving in native format, not much.
The question then becomes: Does the brand you've spend millions on developing, or the time and effort devoted to the historical preservation of your corporate heritage, matter enough to give it an eternal life span?
If so, contact Hanzo.