You’d think that everything on the internet lasts forever. But it doesn’t.
Through Jason Scott’s escapades on Twitter, and his podcast, I have in many ways re-discovered the Internet Archive. It’s the modern day reincarnation of the Great Library of Alexandria, and contains a significant part of the internet as it was. The Archive is also crammed with all kinds of files, from books to recordings of live music performances.
But is the internet, and everything on it, really something that has to be preserved? Yes, it is. Even though it’s mostly cat pictures, porn, and incoherent ramblings, it’s is an important part of our cultural heritage. The internet is a unique gateway into life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and will be important when future generations try to figure out what went wrong.
But why do we need someone to archive the internet? Aren’t we constantly being told that we shouldn’t put anything on the internet because it’s impossible to get it off the internet again? That is true to some extent, but not for everything.
Those pictures of your college adventures? They’ll never leave the internet. Every potential employer that enter your name into their favorite search engine will find them. So good luck with that.
But the internet is also amazingly easy to change, which means it’s way too easy to alter what many people consider the truth. The internet is an Orwellian dream – or nightmare, depending on which side you’re on.
With books, it’s hard to change history. You can’t simply alter a million history books that are already printed. With the internet, however, it’s a whole different story. Simply edit, publish, and most traces of the past are gone.
One of the many things the Internet Archive is useful for, is to make sure we record history as it is, and not the version conveniently made up by whoever is in charge. And archiving the internet is a momentous task.
But you can help!
Become an ArchiveTeam Warrior!
Even if it’s perhaps the lamest name for a group of people in the history of archiving, and a testament to the Archive’s nerdyness, the work that the “warriors” do is invaluable.
Joining this group of what I can only imagine consists mostly of merry, neck-bearded men in their late forties and onward1, is remarkably simple:
- Download VirtualBox, and the latest version of the ArchiveTeam Warrior appliance.
- Install VirtualBox.
- Double-click the appliance file to import it into VirtualBox. Accept the default ones VirtualBox suggests.
- In VirtualBox, start the freshly imported ArchiveTeam Warrior virtual machine.
- And then follow the on-screen instructions to start archiving the internet!
Be advised, though, that the Warrior appliance might start to archive items that you’d perhaps not like. Right now, the ArchiveTeam’s project of choice is to archive as many NSFW-blogs from Tumblr as they possibly can before Tumblr purges them all on December 172. If you’re not comfortable with your computer helping archiving files with names like “wifeythatfucks-also-looking-for-other-couples”, there’s thankfully other, less NSFW-y projects you can participate in.