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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 Fourteen: Usenet as a web archive: Multi-layered archives of computer-mediated communication (Camille Paloque-Berges)


chapter fourteen

Usenet as a web archive

Multi-layered archives of computer-mediated communication

Camille Paloque-Berges1

Funny how those 30 year old posts read exactly the same as today’s posts.2


Librarians and researchers working with born-digital archives face now more than ever the issue of excess in the normative, stabilization process of collecting and standardizing documents for heritage purposes. Among other excesses, the web generates and carries records of computer-mediated communications (CMC), which have not yet become the focus of institutions’ appraisal process of web archiving (Niu, 2012)—and attempts to do so have been paved with challenges, as shown by the example of the American Library of Congress archiving of Twitter (Zimmer, 2016).3

CMC exceeds the web not only in terms of protocols, formats and software, but also in terms of history. CMC’s prototypical genre, email, was one of the first applications of computer networks for human communication in the early 1970s, and is an object of research in humanities and social sciences at least since the 1990’s (Baym, 1995; Wellman, 2001).4 In this chapter, I consider the web as a critical environment for bringing out and building the heritage value of CMC. Lisa Gitelman has outlined a similar argument in Always Already New (2006): digital networks’ data and artifacts participate in writing the history of the web. Studying the case of Usenet archives on the web unfolds a critical history of the social...

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