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Web 25

Histories from the First 25 Years of the World Wide Web


Edited By Niels Brügger

Web 25: Histories from the First 25 Years of the World Wide Web celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Web. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Web has played an important role in the development of the Internet as well as in the development of most societies at large, from its early grey and blue webpages introducing the hyperlink for a wider public, to today’s multifacted uses of the Web as an integrated part of our daily lives.

This is the first book to look back at 25 years of Web evolution, and it tells some of the histories about how the Web was born and has developed. It takes the reader on an exciting time travel journey to learn more about the prehistory of the hyperlink, the birth of the Web, the spread of the early Web, and the Web’s introduction to the general public in mainstream media. Furthermore, case studies of blogs, literature, and traditional media going online are presented alongside methodological reflections on how the past Web can be studied, as well as accounts of how one of the most important source types of our time is provided, namely the archived Web.

Web 25: Histories from the First 25 Years of the World Wide Web is a must-read
for anyone interested in how our online present has been shaped by the past.

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Chapter Eight: The challenges of 25 years of data: An agenda for web-based research (Matthew S. Weber)


chapter eight

The challenges of 25 years of data

An agenda for web-based research

Matthew S. Weber

The promise of the web as a frontier for research

Even during the early days of the web, scholars recognized that the uncontrolled growth of the web was producing a complex and vast information ecosystem (De Kunder, 2012). The web today is an amalgamation of interconnected hubs and spokes of information, and increasingly, an integrated mix of media, including text, photos, audio, movies and live-streaming video. Moreover, new genres and technologies, including social media and mobile standards, further complicate the web-based information landscape. In 2016, estimates indicate that there were at least 4.7 billion indexed World Wide Web pages across the globe (Albert, Jeong, & Barabasi, 1999). Thus, the World Wide Web (the web, for short) has transformed into a complex and central medium for global communication.

The web is a unique record of human interaction and an unparalled record of social development. On the other hand, the web does not exist in a single place, and much of the data contained on the web—present and past—is either inaccessible or has been lost due to a lack of appropriate techniques for preservation (Ankerson, 2012). There are, in addition, many technical challenges associated with researching web data—whether scholars are working with Big Data at scale, or focusing on specific histories of particular phenomena or periods in the web’s development...

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