At our Annual Event last week, the Archive announced a variety of new projects and plans, including our new beta interface, our compact book scanner, and our progress in tracking political ads on television. The event (full video is here) went very well, with lots of activities and social gathering before and afterwards, and included the first public unveiling of our newest project, the Internet Arcade.
It was obvious we were on to something – the smallish room with the two stations set up to play emulated arcade games from the collection was constantly packed. Players young and old tried out classic video games, including parents showing their children games they’d played in their own teenage years. All of it was running off the Archive’s own web pages through standard web browsers, with no special plug-ins – and it held up well. We even tracked high scores.
After an initial tweet or two, the Arcade’s existence went from a mention by Waxy and Laughing Squid, to sites like Hacker News and Mashable, and from there it hit larger and larger audiences. Within a few hours news had spread to a whole range of sites, including Joystiq, The Verge, Engadget, CNN, PC World, Gizmodo, Ars Technica… and, well, let’s just say a very large amount of sites were reporting on this story.
And that’s when the world showed up.
We’re still counting, but we know hundreds of thousands of people came, many of them all at once, to play.
And as these thousands of curious visitors and first-time callers came to the Archive to try out our collection, minor inefficiencies became showstoppers and the site was temporarily crushed. Our brave administration team persevered, repairs were made, and the site settled in for the new reality:
This crush of new visitors are coming to the Internet Archive, possibly for the first time ever, and we welcome them with open arms. After all, that’s what we were founded for – our stated purpose is to function as the Internet’s Library, with stored websites, digitized texts, music, movies and software. It’s our mission as a non-profit library: make as much of culture and information available to as many people as possible. You can lose a workday or a whole winter in our virtual stacks, and our users often do.
Meanwhile, the story continues to have legs, appearing in newspapers, on radio shows, video podcasts, and message boards around the world.
And then we made it to TV news:
So now that we have (apparently) the world’s attention… ahem ahem..
Even we don’t know where this story is going to lead. But one thing is sure – video games and software are as important a part of history and culture as books, movies and music have been in the past. And we’re dedicated to bringing all of this to you, the Internet. Sure, it can be a bit surprising when the entire internet comes over to play, but we wouldn’t have put out the welcome mat if we didn’t want you to visit.
As a non-profit, we depend heavily on user donations to stay afloat – we even take Bitcoin and subscriptions. Keeping 20 petabytes of information flowing, fast and free, is what we’re working on day and night and the positive messages and feedback we’ve gotten this past week (and over the years) tell us we’re doing the right thing.
The JSMESS emulation project is one of many open-source projects the Internet Archive is involved with, and while a lot of it is fun and games we’ve got a serious side too, gathering up disappearing web resources and important historical events into our archives to preserve for next generations. We hope that after you relive your childhood or live out a second new one, you’ll stick around and see what else we have here. It’s quite a place.