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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 Eleven: Users, technologies, organisations: Towards a cultural history of world web archiving (Peter Webster)


chapter eleven

Users, technologies, organisations

Towards a cultural history of world web archiving

Peter Webster

If 2015 marked the elapse of 25 years since the birth of the web, 2016 marked the 20th anniversary of web archiving: of systematic attempts to preserve web content and make it accessible to scholars and the public. As such, the time is ripe to make an initial assessment of the history of the movement, and the patterns into which it has already fallen. Although there have been short sketches of this history (Brown, 2006, pp. 8–23; Brügger, 2011, pp. 29–32), this chapter represents the first attempt to document the subject at length. In the space available, it could not be hoped to provide an exhaustive account of the activities of diverse organisations and individuals in many countries. The chapter attempts to draw the main contours of a landscape, the details of which may be filled by other more local and thematic studies. The timing is particularly significant since several of the pioneers of web archiving have reached or are approaching retirement, and so this study uses interview evidence as a supplement to written documentation.

Some notes on scope are necessary. The story of the technical evolution of web archiving is a complex one, reflecting the sheer speed of the evolution of the web itself and the technological ‘arms race’ in which the community has been engaged, in order to develop and...

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