Category Archives: Announcements

When school’s out, what will we learn?

More than 100 countries have closed their schools, including 43 states in the U.S.

Forty years ago as a freshman, I pulled my first book off the shelves of Hayden Library at MIT. This month, every MIT undergraduate departed from campus in an attempt to contain COVID-19, leaving behind the vast resources of that library. Ready or not, we are all being thrust into an enormous experiment in online learning. One that can have positive and permanent outcomes, if we handle it right.

With schools closing from Changshu to Cambridge, suddenly students are cut off from the physical resources they rely on: the teachers, the classrooms and libraries that are the backbone of learning. And in this flux, those in marginalized communities—from rural areas without broadband or schools with few online books—are even more profoundly challenged. The Economist reports that in the United states, “7 million school-age children cannot access the internet at home.”

“If this is just a prolonged pause in our education and economy, without the benefits of learning and adapting, one of the most profound impacts of COVID-19 may be…a “quiet brain drain.” It will be time our children never get back.”

But here’s the good news: we know how to do this, to impart knowledge at scale over the Internet. Online courses, online libraries and broadband all exist—but we need to expand and upgrade them to meet the needs of the close to one billion learners around the world whose classrooms have been shuttered.

24 years ago, I founded the Internet Archive as a nonprofit digital library serving more than a million learners every day. Today, the Internet Archive is working with hundreds of public, school and university libraries to digitize their core collections and make them freely available over the Internet. Even as MIT was sending students home, we were working with MIT Libraries to see how many of their books we have already digitized. In 24 hours, we were able to hand them back 166,000 digitized books to lend online through their catalogue and via archive.org. This week, the Internet Archive created a National Emergency Library of 1.4 million digitized books to serve the needs of students, educators and learners who can now access them from home.

At archive.org/nel or OpenLibrary.org, you can borrow 1.4 million digitized books for free during the COVID-19 crisis.

Think of this as a huge experiment. In one big push, we can improve online learning and its infrastructure in a way that may otherwise have taken years. This crisis encourages universities to be bold, to make investments that ultimately may mean many more students can benefit. Perhaps 500 undergraduates can fill a hall at MIT, but how many millions can take an online MIT course, once the books, materials and lessons are online?

China is a few weeks ahead of the United States when it comes to experimenting with online learning. In January, my son, Caslon, was teaching English to 4th graders in Changshu. Now he is teaching them from San Francisco, with recorded lessons and online interaction. Next month, his school in China is poised to reopen, but I suspect it will be forever changed.

If this is just a prolonged pause in our education and economy, without the benefits of learning and adapting, one of the most profound impacts of COVID-19 may be what Dr. Kate Tairyan, Chief Medical Officer of the online college NextGenU.org, calls a “quiet brain drain.” It will be time our children never get back.

But we have the opportunity to harness American ingenuity to build a stronger, more robust educational system—by leveraging the Internet, new technologies, and our investments in digitizing books at scale into something that democratizes learning for a generation to come.

Brewster Kahle is the founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. A passionate advocate for public Internet access and a successful entrepreneur, he has spent his career intent on a singular focus: providing Universal Access to All Knowledge. Kahle graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied artificial intelligence.

Announcing a National Emergency Library to Provide Digitized Books to Students and the Public

To address our unprecedented global and immediate need for access to reading and research materials, as of today, March 24, 2020, the Internet Archive will suspend waitlists for the 1.4 million (and growing) books in our lending library by creating a National Emergency Library to serve the nation’s displaced learners. This suspension will run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later. 

During the waitlist suspension, users will be able to borrow books from the National Emergency Library without joining a waitlist, ensuring that students will have access to assigned readings and library materials that the Internet Archive has digitized for the remainder of the US academic calendar, and that people who cannot physically access their local libraries because of closure or self-quarantine can continue to read and thrive during this time of crisis, keeping themselves and others safe.  

This library brings together all the books from Phillips Academy Andover and Marygrove College, and much of Trent University’s collections, along with over a million other books donated from other libraries to readers worldwide that are locked out of their libraries.

This is a response to the scores of inquiries from educators about the capacity of our lending system and the scale needed to meet classroom demands because of the closures. Working with librarians in Boston area, led by Tom Blake of Boston Public Library, who gathered course reserves and reading lists from college and school libraries, we determined which of those books the Internet Archive had already digitized.  Through that work we quickly realized that our lending library wasn’t going to scale to meet the needs of a global community of displaced learners. To make a real difference for the nation and the world, we would have to take a bigger step.

“The library system, because of our national emergency, is coming to aid those that are forced to learn at home, ” said Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. “This was our dream for the original Internet coming to life: the Library at everyone’s fingertips.”

Public support for this emergency measure has come from over 100 individuals, libraries and universities across the world, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  “Ubiquitous access to open digital content has long been an important goal for MIT and MIT Libraries. Learning and research depend on it,” said Chris Bourg, Director of MIT Libraries. “In a global pandemic, robust digital lending options are key to a library’s ability to care for staff and the community, by allowing all of us to work remotely and maintain the recommended social distancing.”

We understand that we’re not going to be able to meet everyone’s needs; our collection, at 1.4 million modern books, is a fraction of the size of a large metropolitan library system or a great academic library. The books that we’ve digitized have been acquired with a focus on materials published during the 20th century, the vast majority of which do not have a commercially available ebook.  This means that while readers and students are able to access latest best sellers and popular titles through services like OverDrive and Hoopla, they don’t have access to the books that only exist in paper, sitting inaccessible on their library shelves. That’s where our collection fits in—we offer digital access to books, many of which are otherwise unavailable to the public while our schools and libraries are closed. In addition to the National Emergency Library, the Internet Archive also offers free public access to 2.5 million fully downloadable public domain books, which do not require waitlists to view.

We recognize that authors and publishers are going to be impacted by this global pandemic as well. We encourage all readers who are in a position to buy books to do so, ideally while also supporting your local bookstore. If they don’t have the book you need, then Amazon or Better World Books may have copies in print or digital formats. We hope that authors will support our effort to ensure temporary access to their work in this time of crisis. We are empowering authors to explicitly opt in and donate books to the National Emergency Library if we don’t have a copy. We are also making it easy for authors to contact us to take a book out of the library. Learn more in our FAQ.

A final note on calling this a “National Emergency” Library.  We lend to the world, including these books. We chose that language deliberately because we are pegging the suspension of the waitlists to the duration of the US national emergency.  Users all over the world have equal access to the books now available, regardless of their location.

How you can help:

  1. Read books, recommend books, and teach using books from the National Emergency Library
  2. Sponsor a book to be digitized and preserved
  3. Endorse this effort institutionally or individually
  4. Share news about the National Emergency Library with your social media followers using #NationalEmergencyLibrary
  5. Donate to the Internet Archive

If you have additional questions, please check out our FAQ or contact Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries.

Love, Loss, and Archives

By Paul Lindner

From the memorial site I built for my wife, Julie Lindner. https://julieslife.com/.

And so it feels like she is slipping away from me a second time: first I lose her in the present, then I lose her in the past. Memory — the mind’s photographic archive — is failing.”

— Julian Barnes,  Levels of Life

I lost my sweet, vibrant, lovely wife Julie to breast cancer last December.

Determined to not lose her a second time, I turned to over 27 years of personal and public archives to create a memorial site. Julie’s escapades and adventures would not be forgotten. Fortunately our journey began online, over email.

Back in 1992, Julie and I met on a mailing list, GRUNGE-L. I noticed she was from Minnesota and so was I. Asked if she’d be up to see some music. She said yes and six months later we were married and off on our adventures. Over that first year we sent each other more than 2000 email messages.

The day before Julie died, I turned to those archived emails. Through tears, I read our early messages to her. I knew that despite being unconscious she could hear my voice and relive those moments with me.

We met on an email list devoted to Grunge music, and six months later, in 1992, we married and traveled the world.

As I sat down to write her obituary, I shifted to a new role: Historian. I began by collecting old text messages, voice mails, and emails. Old SD cards and phones in drawers augmented photo backups. I scanned old photos; friends and family sent what they could find.

But there was more online, some in public archives. The earliest was Julie’s Usenet newsgroup postings. Some are available in Google Groups, but the Internet Archive had many more at https://archive.org/details/usenet. I found posts by Julie in a number of groups, CINEMA-L and alt.music.alternative to name a few. To really recreate the experience, I displayed them on an 80×24 retro-terminal green screen:

Back in January 1992, Julie shared her Top 5 Movies of 1991 on Usenet.

Then there were the bands she loved whose works were out of print. Some, like The Sycamores, had contact info online. But I had to turn to the Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA) to find information about The Wonsers. (Thank you Jason Scott and John Gilmore for saving this and the rest of IUMA!)

And as I dug through email, I remembered Julie loved the “Future Culture” mailing list, and often shared the cultural and technical ephemera she found there.  I subscribed to the list so I could let them know about Julie, and found her messages to the group. Julie started lurking in 1993, finally introducing herself in ’97:

Oh yeah, my name is Julie Lindner. I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota. But, have spent the last year and a half living in Geneva. This seems to be a very interesting group of people. I expect it will be a pleasure to get to know you.

She didn’t post much, but she did earn the title of “Goddess of Tacky Postcards” for three of her entries in a competition to find the most tacky postcard.  She sent in her best and they ended up on a web site “Future Culture goes Postal.”  It’s gone, but it was archived.

The archive is incomplete, but luckily Julie’s second and  third entries survived.  (The first was probably so tacky that it was unarchivable!) Finding these really captured her wicked sense of humor and brought back a special time in our lives.

The list also featured an orange jumpsuit-wearing member named Captain Cursor aka Taylor.  We never managed to meet Taylor, despite moving to the Bay Area. But his archives remain and they provide so much context for my own orange jumpsuit—a gift to me from Julie.

Captain Cursor, a stylesheet superhero c 1997

I was very happy to find even more websites kept alive by the Internet Archive:

  • SomaLiving.com – In 1999 we bought a Loft sight-unseen except for the brand-new ‘virtual tour’ technology.
  • That loft building had its own site: lighthouselofts.com containing photos and a history.
  • It was there that I built a personal, partially lost, website inspired by Julie’s tattoo:
The imagery Julie chose for her tatoo was Pan, the Greek god of the mountain wilds, rustic music, and impromptu concerts.

And finally, through the Wayback Machine, I learned that the memorial site julieslife.com was built on hallowed ground. Turns out I’m not the first to use this domain. There were two other Julies with two wholly unique and treasured lives. The Internet Archive contains the full history of both of them:

Throughout treatment, Julie was able to do many things that she loved. She supported animals in need. Here she is with our dog Gus.

In this way, archives become much more than just data. They allow us to witness, corroborate and remember what happened with an accuracy no human could ever achieve. Each e-mail, each photo, each song, and yes, each tacky postcard ensures that I won’t lose Julie a second time.

So for all the Julies out there, I am thankful for the Internet Archive. Survivors and Historians are eternally grateful that the Archive is there to augment our own fallible memories, ensuring that our loved ones are never lost to time.

Paul Lindner

p.s. If you have suffered a similar loss, please feel free to reach out for a sympathetic ear or for help finding memories in the archives. You can reach me via e-mail or chat/social-media.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul Lindner is a supporter of the Internet Archive, an organizer of the Decentralized Web Summit 2018 and a self-described “obscure 90s Internet OG.


7 Things To Do If You Can’t Leave The House

“Quarantine,” “isolation,” “social distancing”—there are a lot of names for the same problem. Millions of people are being forced to alter their schedules and stay indoors due to the spread of COVID 19 (coronavirus). If you’re stuck at home, you may be asking yourself exactly what you’re going to do all day… and the Internet Archive is here to help!

If you’ve got an internet connection and some time to kill, there are plenty of ways to keep yourself entertained. Here are some of our favorites!


1. Celebrate Cinema

Feel like watching a classic movie? Our Feature Film Archive contains thousands of public domain films, shorts, and trailers, including classics such as Night of the Living Dead, His Girl Friday, and The Most Dangerous Game. You can browse Charlie Chaplin’s movies, watch modern animation such as Sita Sings The Blues, or learn about the life of Aaron Swartz; you can also check out our sizeable collection of silent productions, film noir, and historic comedy. With a huge range of genres, there’s something for everybody!


2. Become a Bookworm

There’s nothing like a good book to take you somewhere else. Both the Internet Archive’s Book Collection and Open Library feature thousands of engaging reads, from ancient classics to popular new additions. Browse thrillers, romance novels, biographies, self-help books, science fiction, political works, educational material, or whatever other genre sparks your interest; check out what’s popular and what’s recently available. And even if you don’t know what you want to read yet, then try picking a book at random—or even just asking a question and seeing what you find!


3. Let The Games Begin

If gaming is more your speed, then check out the MS-DOS Games in our Software Library. This collection includes dozens of classic favorites such as Pac-Man, Sim City, The Oregon Trail, Doom, Prince of Persia, Donkey Kong, and Tetris, as well as many more lesser-known titles such as Aliens Ate My Baby Sitter! and Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist. Enjoy simulations of popular board and card games such as Monopoly, Stratego, Hearts, or Mah Jong, as well as flight simulators, sports games, and this treat for Monty Python fans.


4. Tune In To An Old Radio Show

Before podcasts (or the internet, or even TV) there were radio shows. Even if you’ve never listened to an old-time radio broadcast, chances are you’re familiar with some of the pop-culture touchstones they created—from My Favorite Husband (which was later adapted into the TV show I Love Lucy) to Dragnet (with its famous catchphrase “Just the facts, ma’am.”). If you want to shake up your listening habits, you can explore sitcoms like The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, mysteries like The Whistler, or iconic Westerns such as Have Gun, Will Travel, Tales Of The Texas Rangers, and (of course) Gunsmoke.


5. Pick Up A New Hobby

If you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, then you can put it to good use by learning a new skill! Ever wanted to take up origami? Knitting? Woodworking? Want to sharpen your drawing technique or become a maze-solving master? If cooking is your thing, maybe you can attempt a new cuisine or learn to bake a fancy dessert—if you have to stay home, at least eat well!


6. Listen To Live Concerts

Want to enjoy a musical performance without having to leave the house? The Live Music Archive contains thousands of concert recordings for hundreds of artists. Our most popular collection by far is The Grateful Dead, but you could also explore Smashing Pumpkins, Robert Randolph (and the Family Band), Disco Biscuits, Death Cab for Cutie, John Mayer, or Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. (If wizard rock is more your style, we also have several concerts from Harry and the Potters.) Take a look and see if any of your favorite artists are in here!


7. Do Some Exploring

This list only scratches the surface of what’s available within the Internet Archive. Relive the 80’s and 90’s (and learn how to style your scarf) with the Ephemeral VHS collection, or roam the cosmos with the NASA Image of the Day gallery. Learn about the history of advertising with this collection of retro TV ads or enjoy some psychedelic screensavers. No matter how long you’re stuck indoors, the Internet Archive will have something new to offer you—so happy hunting!

School’s Out… Or Is It?

The recent concern around coronavirus has led to school closures in several US states and more than 30 different countries. Even when there aren’t any epidemics in progress, anything from power outages and snow days to full-blown natural disasters can shut down a school, interrupting the learning process and leaving bored children with time to fill.

The Internet Archive’s mission is Universal Access to All Knowledge, and that includes making it possible for anyone to receive a quality education, anytime, anywhere. School closures are a perfect time to take advantage of online learning—any student with an internet connection can enjoy a huge variety of books on virtually any subject, even accessing the collections of other schools and public libraries.

Alexis Rossi, Director of Collections here at the Internet Archive, has curated a list of resources that can help children continue their education outside of the classroom. If you’re facing a school closure, here’s a handy guide to help you find educational materials on a few popular subjects. And if you need resources for a topic that isn’t on this list, feel free to search the archive and spend the closure diving in to our collections!


Mythology

The oldest stories in the world still tell thrilling tales. If you’re fascinated by Isis and Osiris or want to know who first stole fire, check out this collection of books on myths and legends !


Outer Space

Did you know that it sometimes snows on Mars? Or that a day on Venus is longer than a year? This collection of books and multimedia about the cosmos contains plenty of fun facts to inspire budding astronomers.


Children’s Literature

A few years ago The New York Public Library published a list of the top 100 children’s books from the previous 100 years, a “who’s who” of childhood favorites—from Dr. Seuss to JK Rowling, from Goodnight Moon to Esperanza Rising. The best part is that most of these books are on the Internet Archive and can be checked out for free!


The American Revolution

Calling all history buffs! If you want to learn about the writers who called for independence, the spies who gathered information, the women who joined the war effort, or the everyday citizens who survived a world-changing revolution, this is the place.


1000 Black Girl Books

When 11-year-old Marley Dias noticed that her school reading list was mostly stories about “white boys and dogs”, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Marley curated a collection of 1000 books that featured black girls as the protagonists, and the Internet Archive is working hard to digitize them all so that everyone can read them. Check out the books we have so far!


Dinosaurs

Who doesn’t love learning about dinosaurs? Run with velociraptors, fly with pteranodons, and swim with ichthyosaurs with this collection of Jurassic gems!


Shakespeare

Widely considered one of the greatest writers in the English language, William Shakespeare’s works have been read by generations of schoolchildren. Since all his works are in the public domain, you can read multiple editions of them online—along with helpful notes, commentaries, and study guides!


Study Breaks

Can you make it to the Willamette Valley without dying of dysentery? Or beat Bobby Fischer in a game of chess? The Internet Archive is home to a variety of fun and educational computer games from years past, including “The Oregon Trail”, “Spellevator”, “Number Munchers”, “Grammar Gobble”, “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess”, and “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”.

If you prefer analog activities, we also have a range of puzzles and games, coloring books, sudoku grids, and other activity books that kids of all ages can enjoy. Feel free to print and play!


Other Resources

Looking for more formal educational resources? The Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education has produced a series of lesson plans on a huge variety of subjects, from the history of Yugoslavia to the principles of economics to the basics of haiku. Take a look!

Outside of the Internet Archive, other useful educational resources include Khan Academy, PBSKids.org, and your local library’s websites (here’s the San Francisco Public Library’s kids portal).


Whether you’re facing a school closure or not, the Internet Archive is a great resource for children’s educational materials. If you want to support our mission of Universal Access To All Knowledge, click here to donate. And if you have any other suggestions for items in our collections that could be useful, leave them in the comments!

“Community Webs” Receives Additional Funding to Further Public Library Local History Web Collecting

In 2017, our Archive-It service was awarded funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for the 2-year project “Community Webs: Empowering Public Librarians to Create Community History Web Archives.” The program has been providing training and technical infrastructure for a diverse group of librarians nationwide to develop expertise in creating collections of historically valuable web-published materials documenting their local communities and under-represented communities. In response to an unexpectedly large group of applicants, and with additional internal funding, we were able to expand the cohort to a total of 28 libraries from 16 states. The launch announcement and the dedicated website have further information about the program and its progress.

We are excited to announce that IMLS has recently provided additional supplementary funding to Community Webs! The additional funding will allow us to focus on program evaluation, expansion, and strategic planning. We are very pleased to be working with the Educopia Institute in support of this work and will benefit from their vast expertise in community cultivation and program facilitation.

Over the course of the original 2-year Community Webs program, the 28 participating libraries created hundreds of archived collections totaling more than 40 terabytes of data, gave dozens of professional presentations at local and national conferences, held many public programs and patron-facing events, and attended numerous meet-ups and cohort events. As well, the program created a suite of open educational resources, online courses, and other training materials supporting digital curation skills development, local history web collecting, and community formation. Some sample collections created as part of the program include:

#HashtagSyllabusMovement by Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
LGBTQ in Alabama by Birmingham Public Library
D.C. Punk (Web) Archive by DC Public Library, Special Collections
North Bay Fires, 2017 by Sonoma County Public Library
Food Culture by Athens (GA) Regional Library System
Movimiento Cosecha Grand Rapids by Grand Rapids Public Library

The program’s website has links to each participating institution’s collections page.

We are grateful to IMLS for the additional funding to continue this popular program, excited to work with Educopia on further community development, and encourage any public libraries interested in participating to contact us.

Controlled digital lending and Open Libraries: helping libraries and readers in times of crisis

tldr; As libraries face closure across the globe because of coronavirus, millions of digitized books are now available for free to be borrowed by learn-at-home students and readers. We need more libraries to join Open Libraries to offer more copies to patrons; it’s free and easy.

openlibraries - everyone deserves to learn

In response to the global COVID-19 outbreak and related public health concerns, libraries across the nation are closing or scaling back service (see Fremont, Nebraska’s Keene Memorial Library closure; Seattle Public Library’s reduction in programs and bookmobile service).  While Overdrive, Hoopla, and other streaming services provide patrons access to latest best sellers and popular titles, the long tail of reading and research materials available deep within a library’s print collection are often not available through these large commercial services.  What this means is that when libraries face closures in times of crisis, patrons are left with access to only a fraction of the materials that the library holds in its collection.

That’s where the Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program, powered by controlled digital lending, can help.  We empower libraries to turn their print holdings digital, offering digitized versions of the physical books in their collection to their patrons, overcoming distance and closures.  We’ve been acquiring and digitizing millions of the most important books – school libraries, entire college libraries, books cited in Wikipedia, books assigned in courses and included in syllabi, etc. – and 1.4 million of those books are now available for anyone to check out online at archive.org for free. 

Open Libraries helps individuals & libraries alike, in the following ways:

For individuals: Individual readers have access to all of the books that Internet Archive has digitized, including 1.4 million modern books.  An Internet Archive library card is free and gives users the ability to check out 5 digitized books at a time.  Browse our collection today and start reading immediately!

For libraries: Think of Open Libraries as your digital branch library.  The 1.4 million books we’ve digitized are available for you to claim and lend to your patrons.  The process is simple: join Open Libraries and then share your library catalog with us to find out which of your books we’ve already digitized.  We’ll give you a link to those books that you can incorporate back into your catalog, helping your patrons locate these digitized books from within your library catalog and local search. Join today.

If you’d like to learn more about how libraries are using controlled digital lending, please visit our recap from last year’s Library Leaders Forum, and our 11-part series highlighting different library use cases.  Once you’re ready to start lending our titles to your patrons, please begin by filling out our simple online form.

We are ready to assist however we can.

Brave Browser and the Wayback Machine: Working together to help make the Web more useful and reliable

The Web just got a little bit more reliable.

Available today, starting with version 1.4 of its desktop browser, Brave has added a 404 detection system, with an automated Wayback Machine lookup process to its desktop browser.

By default, it now offers users one-click access to archived versions of Web pages that might otherwise not be available. Specifically we are checking for 14 HTTP error codes in addition to the 404 (page not found) condition, including: 408, 410, 451, 500, 502, 503, 504, 509, 520, 521, 523, 524, 525, and 526. 

The Web is fragile. Just as nations rise and fall, so do the Websites of your favorite news orgs, brands, companies, governments, etc. Web pages are edited and pages are taken down. Studies suggest the average life expectancy of a single Web page is anywhere from 44 – 100 days. We’ve all hit the dreaded error code 404 “Page Not Found”. Is there any hope of seeing that Web page ever again?

If you are a Brave desktop browser user, the answer is now just a click away. But first – you have to update your browser. Then see the benefits of this new feature in action by clicking on this URL.

For the past 23 years the Wayback Machine has archived more than 900 billion URLs, and more than 400 billion Web pages, and adds many hundred million more archived URLs each day. As such there is a good chance archived versions of “missing” pages you are looking for are available.

This is not the first time the Internet Archive has partnered with Brave. In 2017 we announced our support of their micropayments system and then last year we shared an update about that effort. We appreciate how Brave continues to innovate and deliver new value and services through their browser.

We are grateful for their commitment to user privacy, helping advance alternatives to the current ad-supported Web, and focusing on improving the overall Web browsing experience. We applaud Brave’s leadership in these efforts and look forward to working with them on other ways to help make the Web more useful and reliable.

While native Wayback Machine 404 support is only available via the Brave desktop browser, various Wayback Machine functionality, including 404 detection and archived URL playback, is available via browser extensions for SafariChrome and Firefox.

If you have ideas about how we can improve the Wayback Machine please share them with us via email to info@archive.org  Many of the recent features we have added are the result of suggestions from users of the service and we appreciate all feedback. Together we can help make the Web more useful and reliable.

Archiving Information on the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19)

The Internet Archive’s Archive-It service is collaborating with the Internet Preservation Consortium’s (IIPC) Content Development Group (CDG) to archive web-published resources related to the ongoing Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. The IIPC Content Development Group consists of curators and professionals from dozens of libraries and archives from around the world that are preserving and providing access to the archived web. The Internet Archive is a co-founder and longtime member of the IIPC. The project will include both subject-expert curation by IIPC members as well as the inclusion of websites nominated by the public (see the nomination form link below).

Due to the urgency of the outbreak, archiving of nominated web content will commence immediately and continue as needed depending on the course of the outbreak and its containment. Web content from all countries and in any language is in scope. Possible topics to guide nominations and collections: 

  • Coronavirus origins 
  • Information about the spread of infection 
  • Regional or local containment efforts
  • Medical/Scientific aspects
  • Social aspects
  • Economic aspects
  • Political aspects

Members of the general public are welcomed to nominate websites and web-published materials using the following web form: https://forms.gle/iAdvSyh6hyvv1wvx9. Archived information will also be available soon via the IIPC’s public collections in Archive-It. [March 23, 2020 edit: the public collection can now be found here, https://archive-it.org/collections/13529.]

Members of the general public can also take advantage of the ability to upload non-web digital resources directly to specific Internet Archive collections such as Community Video or Community Texts. For instance, see this collection of “Files pertaining to the 2019–20 Wuhan, China Coronavirus outbreak.” We recommend using a common subject tag, like coronavirus to facilitate search and discovery. Fore more information on uploading materials to archive.org, see the Internet Archive Help Center.

A special thanks to Alex Thurman of Columbia University and Nicola Bingham of the British Library, the co-chairs of the IIPC CDG, and to other IIPC members participating in the project. Thanks as well to any and all public nominators assisting with identifying and archiving records about this significant global event.

Our Social Media is Broken. Is Decentralization the Fix?

When Jack Dorsey, founder of the very centralized social media platform, Twitter, posted this message about decentralized social media, our DWeb community took note:

Dorsey went on to enumerate the current problems with social media: misinformation and abuse; opaque, proprietary algorithms that dictate what you see and hear; and financial incentives that elevate “controversy and outrage” rather than “conversation that informs and promotes health.”  But Twitter’s co-founder and CEO also sees promising new solutions:

We agree. Much work has been done and some of the fundamentals are in place. So on January 21, 2020 the Internet Archive hosted “Exploring Decentralized Social Media,” a DWeb SF Meetup that attracted 120+ decentralized tech builders, founders, and those who just wanted to learn more. Decentralized social media app builders from London, Portland and San Francisco took us on a tour of where their projects are today.

WATCH PRESENTATIONS HERE:

Developer and writer, Jay Graber, explained the state-of-the-art in Peer-to-Peer, Federated and blockchain related social media.

The evening began with a survey of the decentralized social media landscape by researcher and Happening.net developer, Jay Graber. (See her two excellent Medium articles on the subject.) Graber helped us understand the broad categories of what’s out there: federated protocols such as ActivityPub and Matrix; peer-to-peer protocols such as Scuttlebutt, and social media apps that utilize blockchain in some way for  monetization, provenance or storage. What was clear from Graber’s talk was that she had tested and used dozens of tools, from Mastodon to Iris, Martti Malmi’s new P-2-P social app and she deftly laid out the pros and cons of each.

What followed were talks by the founders and developers from each of Graber’s categories:

Evan Henshaw-Plath (aka Rabble) was one of the earliest engineers at Twitter. He’s bringing years of startup experience to Planetary.social, his new P-2-P mobile version of Facebook.

Evan Henshaw-Plath, an original Odeo/Twitter engineer, is the founder of Planetary.social, a P-2-P mobile app that’s “an open, humane Facebook alternative” built atop Scuttlebutt. His goal with Planetary is to make an app reflecting the values of the commons, but that feels as seamless and familiar as the social apps we already use.

Flying in from London, Matthew Hodgson, founder of Matrix.org, brought us up-to-date with his open network for fully encrypted, real-time communication. With an impressive 13.5 million account holders, including the governments of France and Germany, Matrix is showing hockey-stick-like growth. But Matrix’s greatest challenge: in an encrypted, decentralized system, how do you filter out the bad stuff? By using “decentralized reputation,” Hodgson explained, allowing users to moderate what they are willing to see. Hodgson also revealed he’s building an experimental P-2-P Matrix in 2020.

With fuller control over one’s social streams comes greater responsibility. Matrix founder, Matthew Hodgson explains how each user can subscribe to trusted blacklists and eventually “greylists” of questionable content and block it.
Today’s social media walled gardens are not that different from America’s phone companies in 1900, explained tech executive, John Ryan. We are in the early days of integration.

Thought leader and tech executive, John Ryan, provided valuable historical context both onstage and in his recent blog. He compared today’s social media platforms to telephone services in 1900. Back then, a Bell Telephone user couldn’t talk to an AT&T customer; businesses had to have multiple phone lines just to converse with their clients. It’s not that different today, Ryan asserts, when Facebook members can’t share their photos with Renren’s 150 million account holders. All of these walled gardens, he said, need a “trusted intermediary” layer to become fully interconnected.

Twitter CTO, Parag Agrawal, has been tasked with bootstrapping a new team of decentralized builders called “Bluesky.”

Next  CTO, Parag Agrawal, outlined Twitter’s goals and the problems all social media platforms face. “Decentralization to us is not an end, it’s a means to an end,” he explained. “We have a hypothesis on how it can help solve these problems.” Agrawal says Twitter will be bootstrapping a team they call “bluesky,” who will not be Twitter employees, but independent. “Twitter will have very little control (over bluesky) other than our bootstrapping efforts,” he laid out.


Next up was Burak Nehbit, founder of Aether, something akin to a peer-to-peer Reddit. But here’s Aether’s secret sauce: expert moderation, with 100% transparency and communities who elect their own moderators. Aether is focused on “high quality conversations” and those users willing to roll up their sleeves and moderate them.

Aether’s founder, Burak Nehbit, is creating a P-2-P social media platform of highly curated, self-governed content, where elected moderators ensure “high quality” conversations.

And rounding out the evening was Edward West, founder of Hylo.com, an app that combines group management, messaging and collaboration built on holochainRecently Holo acquired the Hylo software and Holo’s Director of Communications Jarod Holtz explained why this union is significant for decentralized builders, including the Terran Collective‘s Aaron Brodeur and Clare Politano, who will be stewarding the Hylo project: 

Edward West of Hylo, Aaron Brodeur, Jarod Holtz and Clare Politano are joining forces as Hylo.com is acquired by Holo and “stewarded” by the Terran Collective.

From both a design and an engineering perspective, the way Hylo is structured makes it perfectly suited to being converted to run in the future as a decentralized application on Holochain. The Hylo code base will be instrumental in helping us demonstrate how a centralised app can be transformed into a distributed app.

Blockchain based social media solutions, including Bevan Barton’s Peepeth built on Ethereum and Emre Sokullu of Pho Networks, gave overviews of their work at lightning speed. After the Meetup, Sokullu penned this article explaining how Pho can serve as a programming language to build decentralized applications. 

From federated to blockchain and gradations in between, decentralized social media is taking flight.  And on one winter night in San Francisco, builders of wildly diverse projects came together at the Internet Archive to demonstrate how far they’ve come—and the long road ahead.