[Translation] Why do we have so little from the early Internet?

[Translation] Why do we have so little from the early Internet?

After almost five years of existence of the Internet, the first organized attempt was made to archive it. Most of our early online actions have disappeared forever.

In 2005, Alex Tew came up with an idea for a million dollars. The 20-year-old idiot was played with ideas designed to pay for the imminent three-year study in the magistracy in business. Tew was worried that his debts would be incredibly swelling. He scrawled in his notebook: "How to become a millionaire."

Twenty minutes later, he thought up, as it seemed to him, the answer to this question.

Tew created a website called " Million Dollar Home Page " [The Million Dollar Homepage]. The site model was indecently simple: it was possible to see a million pixels of advertising space on it, and it was suggested to buy them in blocks of 100 pieces, for $ 1 each. When you bought them, they remained yours forever. After selling the millionth pixel, Tew would become a millionaire. At least the plan was like this.

The page was launched on August 26, 2005, after Tew spent 50 euros on domain registration and hosting setup. Advertisers bought pixels and provided a link, a small image and a bit of text that appeared when you hover over the image.

About a month later, thanks to word of mouth and increased attention from the media, the page brought Tew more than $ 250,000 dollars. In January 2006, the last 1000 pixels were sold at auction for $ 38,100. Tew earned his million.

The page still exists, after almost a half a decade after the appearance. Many of the clients are The Times British newspaper, Cheapflights.com travel agency, Yahoo! and the rock duo Tenacious D - received 15 years of advertising from one payment. The site is still being visited daily by several thousand people. It was probably a good investment project.

Today, Tew, Calm, a meditation and mindfulness app, has truly become a millionaire. However, the page he created was also something else: a living museum of the early Internet era. Fifteen years may seem a short time, but from the point of view of the Internet, this is a whole geological epoch. About 40% of links from the page today lead to dead sites. Many others point to completely new domains, as their old URLs are sold to new owners.

Page to Million demonstrates the almost invisible disintegration of the Internet of the early period. Offline shutdown, for example, a local newspaper, is often widely covered. However, online sites are dying, often without any fanfare, and the first sign of their absence, which you may encounter, will be that if you follow the link, you will find a blank page.


About 10 years ago, I devoted a couple of years of my life to a blog about rock music and posts in the music section of the AOL website, which was spreading off the Internet pioneer, now owned by Verizon. I edited or wrote hundreds of online reviews, stories about music stores, interviews with artists, and list articles. Then Facebook and Twitter already attracted a large enough audience, and smartphones connected us to the Internet on the way home from work; Web surfing has become around the clock.

It would be logical to conclude that if I had to demonstrate the evidence of my work, it would be enough to conduct one Google search. But it is not. In April 2013, AOL suddenly closed all the music sites - and the results of the joint work of dozens of editors and hundreds of authors over many years.There is little left of this, only a few of the stateek preserved in an online archive - a non-profit foundation from San Francisco, launched in the late 1990s by programmer Brewster Keil.

This is the most famous of the organizations trying to preserve the last traces of the remnants of the first decade of the presence of mankind on the Internet, while they have not disappeared forever.

Dame Wendy Hall, executive director of the Institute of Web Sciences at the University of Southampton, demonstrates a clear position on the work of the archive: “If it were not for them, we would not have any early material,” she says. “If Brewster Kane wouldn’t open an online archive and start saving it all — without asking anyone for permission — we would lose everything.”

Dame Wendy says that archives and national libraries have experience in saving books, newspapers and periodicals, because the press has been around for a long time. However, the emergence of the Internet - and how quickly it became a new mass form of communication and self-expression - could take them by surprise. Since then, many attempts have been made to catch up with Internet archiving. “The British Library must have a copy of each of the local newspapers ever published,” she says. And when newspapers switched from print to web, archiving took another form. Are websites as valuable resources as the newspapers that preceded them?

Newspaper archives are also vulnerable, they are lost when the publishing house closes or merges with others. “Most newspapers, I think, should have some sort of archive,” she says. “But if it is not properly maintained, it may be lost.”

One of the main problems of attempts to archive the Internet is that it does not sit still. Every minute - every second there are more photos, blog posts, videos, news, comments. And although the price of digital media has dropped significantly, the archiving of all this material still costs money. “Who will pay for it? - asks Dame Wendy. “We generate a lot more material than before.”

In Britain, the British Library is partly responsible for digital preservation. It manages the UK Web Archive web archive, which has collected information from sites with their permission since 2004. Archive manager Jays Webber says that this problem is much bigger than most people think.

“It's not just the early stuff. Most of the Internet is not saved, he says. - The Internet archive began to maintain the archives of pages in 1996. Five years after the appearance of the first web pages. Nothing was copied from that era. ”

Even the first web page, created in 1991, has not been preserved; what you can see on the WWW consortium page is a copy made a year later.

Most of the first five years of the web’s existence, most of the materials published in Britain ended in .ac.uk — these were scientific articles written by scientists. Only in 1996, more general-purpose sites began to appear on the web, when commercial sites began to outpace scientific research.

The British Library polls each domain once a year - keeping everything that has been published in Britain. “We try to save everything, but we do it only once a year. However, the maximum amount for many sites is 500 MB; it covers a lot of small sites, but only a few videos can fit in there, and it comes pretty quickly to the limit. ” News sites, such as BBC News, archive more often bypasses.Webber says the library tried to create the most complete picture possible of such events as Brexit, the London 2012 Olympiad and the 100th anniversary of World War I.

“I think there is very little understanding that something has disappeared,” says Webber. - The digital world is very ephemeral, we look at the phone, everything changes there, and we don’t think much about it. But now people are starting to learn more about how much we may be losing. ”

However, Webber says, organizations have the right to collect only publicly available material; An even greater amount of historically important data lies in the personal archives of people, for example, on their hard drives. But few of us keep them for posterity.

“The British Library is full of letters from personal correspondence. This is a post of politicians, love letters - and such things are very important for some. ”

We believe that the material that we post on the social network will always be stored there, and will be available by pressing a key. However, the recent loss of 12 years of music and photos one of the first MySpace social sites - which was once the most popular in the United States - demonstrates that even materials stored on the largest sites are not safe.

And even Google services are not insured. Google+, the search giant's attempt to launch a Facebook rival, closed on April 2 . Have all its users backed up photos and memorabilia?

“By posting your photos on Facebook, you don’t archive them, because someday Facebook will cease to exist,” says Webber. If you doubt the temporal nature of the web, spend a few minutes and comb a million dollar page. This is testimony to how quickly our online past is disappearing.

There is another side to data loss. Dame Wendy points to the fact that the lack of an archive of news sites may lead to a selective approach to history - for example, new governments may decide not to keep stories in the archives that put them in a bad light.

“Every time there is a change of government or restructuring of quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations, the websites are closed,” said Jane Winters, a professor of digital humanities at the University of London. “Or look at election campaign sites, which by their very nature are temporary.”

Sometimes lost sites are a rerun of more serious changes; death and the birth of entire nations. “It happened to Yugoslavia. The top-level domain was .yu, and after the collapse of the country he disappeared. One researcher is trying to restore what was there before the collapse, she says. “Politics is so often connected with technology.”

In all this, perhaps there is a small bright side. “I have historians in my family, and we have always encountered gaps in historical records - we know about some of them, and we don’t even suspect some of them.”

Dame Wendy Hall also sees in this situation parallels with the physical world. When she was 15, in the late 1960s, she was one of the guests in the audience of the BBC music show Top of the Pops.

The show was shown at Christmas. "The TV was on, and my mom said: 'Look, there you are!' But I missed that moment. Then I went to the BBC and tried to get a copy of the record from them - but they re-recorded this program. So I never saw her. ”

Source text: [Translation] Why do we have so little from the early Internet?