Category Archives: Announcements

FOSS wins again: Free and Open Source Communities comes through on 19th Century Newspapers (and Books and Periodicals…)

I have never been more encouraged and thankful to Free and Open Source communities. Three months ago I posted a request for help with OCR’ing and processing 19th Century Newspapers and we got soooo many offers to help.  Thank you, that was heart warming and concretely helpful– already based on these suggestions we are changing over our OCR and PDF software completely to FOSS, making big improvements, and building partnerships with FOSS developers in companies, universities, and as individuals that will propel the Internet Archive to have much better digitized texts.  I am so grateful, thank you.   So encouraging.

I posted a plea for help on the Internet Archive blog: Can You Help us Make the 19th Century Searchable? and we got many social media offers and over 50 comments the post– maybe a record response rate.   

We are already changing over our OCR to Tesseract/OCRopus and leveraging many PDF libraries to create compressed, accessible, and archival PDFs.

Several people suggested the German government-lead initiative called OCR-D that has made production level tools for helping OCR and segment complex and old materials such as newspapers in the old German script Fraktur, or black letter.  (The Internet Archive had never been able to process these, and now we are doing it at scale).   We are also able to OCR more Indian languages which is fantastic.  This Government project is FOSS, and has money for outreach to make sure others use the tools– this is a step beyond most research grants. 

Tesseract has made a major step forward in the last few years.  When we last evaluated the accuracy it was not as good as the proprietary OCR, but that has changed– we have done evaluations and it is just as good, and can get better for our application because of its new architecture.   

Underlying the new Tesseract is a LSTM engine similar to the one developed for Ocropus2/ocropy, which was a project led by Tom Bruel (funded by Google, his former German University, and probably others– thank you!). He has continued working on this project even though he left academia.  A machine learning based program is introducing us to GPU based processing, which is an extra win.  It can also be trained on corrected texts so it can get better.  

Proprietary example from an Anti-Slavery newspaper from my blog post:

New one, based on free and open source software that is still faulty but better:

The time it takes on our cluster to compute is approximately the same, but if we add GPU’s we should be able to speed up OCR and PDF creation, maybe 10 times, which would help a great deal since we are processing millions of pages a day.

The PDF generation is a balance trying to achieve small file size as well as rendering quickly in browser implementations, have useful functionality (text search, page numbers, cut-and-paste of text), and comply with archival (PDF/A) and accessibility standards (PDF/UA). At the heart of the new PDF generation is the “archive-pdf-tools” Python library, which performs Mixed Raster Content (MRC) compression, creates a hidden text layer using a modified Tesseract PDF renderer that can read hOCR files as input, and ensures the PDFs are compatible with archival standards (VeraPDF is used to verify every PDF that we generate against the archival PDF standards). The MRC compression decomposes each image into a background, foreground and foreground mask, heavily compressing (and sometimes downscaling) each layer separately. The mask is compressed losslessly, ensuring that the text and lines in an image do not suffer from compression artifacts and look clear. Using this method, we observe a 10x compression factor for most of our books.

The PDFs themselves are created using the high-performance mupdf and pymupdf python library: both projects were supportive and promptly fixed various bugs, which propelled our efforts forwards.

And best of all, we have expanded our community to include people all over the world that are working together to make cultural materials more available. We have a slack channel for OCR researchers and implementers now, that you can join if you would like.  We look to contribute software and data sets to these projects to help them improve (lead by Merlijn Wajer and Derek Fukumori).

Next steps to fulfill the dream of Vanevar Bush’s Memex, Ted Nelson’s Xanadu, Michael Hart’s Project Gutenberg, Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web,  Raj Ready’s call for Universal Access to All Knowledge (and now the Internet Archive’s mission statement):

  • Find articles in periodicals, and get the titles/authors/footnotes
  • Linking footnote citations to other documents
  • OCR Balinese palm leaf manuscripts based 17,000 hand entered pages.
  • Improve Tesseract page handling to improve OCR and segmentation
  • Improve epub creation, including images from pages
  • Improve OCRopus by creating training datasets

Any help here would be most appreciated.

Thank you, Free and Open Source Communities!  We are glad to be part of such a sharing and open world.

Flash Back! Further Thoughts on Flash at the Internet Archive

A little behind the scenes here at the Archive: this blog is the province of a wide range of sub-groups, from books and partnerships over to development and collaborators. There’s usually a little traffic jam to schedule or make sure entries don’t go over each other, so this “sequel” post is being written before we return you to other Archive news.

The big announcement last week about the Internet Archive hosting Flash animations/games and making them run in the browser thanks to the Emularity and Ruffle made a huge splash. If you haven’t read that entry, you should definitely read it first.

Here’s some observations about Flash and the Internet Ecosystem from the last three rambunctious days. Obviously, the story of us including Flash doesn’t end here – we’ll continue to update Ruffle as it improves, and both users and collaborators are adding new animations at a pretty stunning clip. Be sure to keep checking the Flash Collection at the Archive for new additions.

What have we learned so far?

The Idea of Playing Flash in the Browser Past The End of The Year Is Very Popular

It was assumed, and has proven out, that being able to play Flash items, be they animations, toys or games, is an extremely popular idea: Tens of thousands of people have been flooding into the Archive to try things out. The “death” of Flash as a default plugin for browsers and the removal of easy access to it definitely had many people sad and concerned.

That said, assuming that Adobe and any other vendors were not going to throw the significant resources behind security and maintenance that Flash plugins would require, removing default support for it made sense. Sometimes these choices are not great for the historical Web, but sideloading in significant attack surfaces just because people like old games is not ideal either.

Ruffle is not Flash. It is an emulator that takes .SWF files (which worked with Flash) and makes a very good attempt to display what the file means to do. It is written in an entire other language with an entire other team of programmers, and is working with a specification and history that is ossified. In that way, it is hoped that the security issues of Flash can be avoided but the works can live on.

And are they living on!

Even in the very short time that this new feature has been announced, the news was picked up by Boing Boing, Engadget, The Verge, The Register, Gizmodo, PC Gamer, and dozens of other locations (and the top spot at Hacker News for a while). That increased the flood of visitors to our site and we’ve held up pretty well, due to the high compression rates and small file sizes of Flash.

People Have Very Strong Memories of Flash; For Some It Represents Childhood

Everyone has a different timeline with computers and the internet, but for countless people using their phones and connections today, Flash plays as critical a role in their childhood memories as a game console or television show. Students could sneak flash games into the computer labs, or trade USB sticks with Flash, or simply get around filters preventing “obvious” entertainment sites to find a single URL that gave them a racing or RPG game to while away an afternoon on.

And, most notably, not just as players, but as creators. There are, it turns out, a significant amount of professional artists and coders who count Flash and related technologies as their very first “programming language”. Going through our collection, you can find ten-person studio productions side-by-side a game made by a driven teenager at home, and the teenager will have gotten more popular. Intended to be used for creative works, the Flash environments over the years provided the launchpad for thousands of careers and creative outlets.

The Role of Flash Wasn’t Obvious To a Lot of People

An interesting situation as people come face to face with in some of these animations in the Flash collection are that many didn’t know they were Flash.

Video sites, such as Youtube, are a mid to late 2000s addition to the Internet. Previously, with dial-up modems as the main connection to the Internet, streaming video was a distant and hazy dream that seemed impossible to provide beyond a small experimental or well-connected crowd. Filling that need was Flash, which could compress down incredibly small (a full song and video to accompany it could be under five megabytes, or even one megabyte) and they even had quality settings for less powerful computers. Flash animation could “pre-load” the data required that was coming over a modem, giving an update as to progress or a small game to play, until the full “video” was downloaded. This has all been swept away into the dustbin of memory in a world where 4k 60fps video is possible (if still not to everyone).

With the jump to video in the mid 2000s, many Flash animations were transcoded into MPEG files, or animated GIFs, or uploaded to Youtube as fully-realized video, even though Flash was the original medium. As the more well-crafted works gained attention in this new space, the old formats were forgotten.

Since the Ruffle browser has a fullscreen option (right-click, soon to be a button to the right of the animation), if the Flash animation was done using vectors, they will scale up to 4k displays smoothly. Unlike old video, the original works will keep up with the newest technology very nicely and will give added appreciation for the efforts in the original piece.

Flooding All These Old Flash Works Has High and Low Moments

Because nearly anyone could create flash animations and games, nearly anyone did. It also meant that filters on quality, profanity, or unusual subjects were gone.

Sometimes that worked out very nicely: Imagine trying to pitch an animated film like The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny to a studio or backers to make for film festivals. A game like Castle Cat is bizarre and a collage of pop culture but plays as well as a professional game at the time. (it even got a sequel.)

Other times, the works are clunky, poorly programmed, and full of offensive jokes and material. They could literally be after-school projects or whipped up in a weekend to make fun of someone or something and then get trapped in amber to the present day. Wandering the stacks, with what will soon be thousands of items, can be daunting.

As a result, the Showcase was created to highlight the best of the best, the handful that really universally stand out as entertaining, well-made, and uplifting (or at least, thought-provoking).

By the way, if the towering piles of Flash works seems daunting now, imagine what it was like 20 years ago for people slowly moving through page after page, taking minutes to download a given animation, and clicking on it with no idea what they’d be seeing next.

Adding Your Own Flash Is Difficult But Rewarding

It is notably complicated to add new working Flash to our collection. This is a side effect of all the different components that need to be activated in the Internet Archive structure. By far, the best document to read about how to test, upload, and describe SWF files is this document by the Flashpoint project:

https://bluemaxima.org/flashpoint/datahub/Uploading_SWFs_for_the_Internet_Archive

(As a side note, the two most common mistakes are setting “emulator-ext” instead of “emulator_ext” (see the difference?) and not setting the item to be a “software” media type. A script has been written that checks new uploads to find common mistakes and will sometimes tweak the uploads to fix them.)

There’s Still A Long Way to Go To “Perfect” or Wayback Playback

We shoved this entire ecosystem into the Archive “hot”, with known gaps in support for Flash features, and with bugs still being ironed out. Most Flash animations used a rather small set of scripting commands within the potential list, and those have been focused on by the Ruffle team, so a lot of animations do just fine. But more than just a few times, a Flash item will go in and there will be a critical failure, be it the inability to hit buttons or missing video/audio. This reflects the continual improvement of the emulator but also that entire swaths of support are still a way to go.

This also provides the answer to the question some are asking, which is how long before the Wayback Machine “just plays” old Flash items when you go to the page. Ruffle is still way too new to shove into the Wayback and the problems it would cause at this stage would be significant. Many improvements to Wayback and its reach have happened over the last year, with connections to Wikipedia, Cloudflare and Brave, but the day when you go to an old Flash-driven site and have it “just work” in Wayback is going to be a significant time in the future.

Which brings up another tangent:

Flash Interfaces to the Web Were The Worst Idea

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that the fad of making Flash boot up and be the “menu” or selections for a website were unusually cruel to anyone in need of portability or accessibility. What’s thought of as “Web 1.0” (HTML files and simple flat files provided to servers) was extremely good for screen readers and keyboard shortcuts, providing important access to blind or disabled users, as well as expanding the amount of devices and systems that could use the Web. Flash took a lot of that away in the name of.. well, Flashiness. As this small burst of interest in Flash has occurred, a not-insignificant amount of people dependent on accessibility have said “Good Riddance to Flash”, and they’re entirely right. Captured inside little boxes on Internet Archive as displays in a museum, they work fine enough. But the Web should never have depended on Flash for navigation.

When Flash Is At Its Best, There’s Nothing Like It On The Internet

As people have been sharing the Flash animations they’ve found on the site, as well as providing their own additions, jewels have been coming to the forefront. Most inspiring have been artists and creators who did work 15 or 20 years ago and have been rifling through floppies and stored ZIP files to upload to our collection.

Watching this as they come in, it strikes us anew how much effort, artistic and otherwise, went into a good Flash animation. Crafting custom artwork, adding little touches and flair, and truly bringing something new into the world… this was the promise of Flash and every time someone in the modern age stumbles on a classic for the first time, all the effort is worth it.

Long Live Flash!

Flash Animations Live Forever at the Internet Archive

Great news for everyone concerned about the Flash end of life planned for end of 2020: The Internet Archive is now emulating Flash animations, games and toys in our software collection.

Utilizing an in-development Flash emulator called Ruffle, we have added Flash support to the Internet Archive’s Emularity system, letting a subset of Flash items play in the browser as if you had a Flash plugin installed. While Ruffle’s compatibility with Flash is less than 100%, it will play a very large portion of historical Flash animation in the browser, at both a smooth and accurate rate.

We have a showcase of the hand-picked best or representative Flash items in this collection. If you want to try your best at combing through a collection of over 1,000 flash items uploaded so far, here is the link.

You will not need to have a flash plugin installed, and the system works in all browsers that support Webassembly.

For many people: See you later! Enjoy the Flash stuff!

Others might get this far down and ask “And what exactly is Flash?” or even “I haven’t thought about Flash in a very long time.” For both of these groups, let’s talk about Flash and what it represented in the 1990s and 2000s.

A Short History of of the Rise of Flash

In the early 1990s, web browsers were incredibly powerful compared to what came before – with simple files written in HTML that could generate documents that were mixing images and text, as well as providing links to other websites, it felt like nothing for computers had ever had this level of ease and flexibility. It really did change everything.

But people didn’t stay in a state of wonder.

It quickly became a request, then a demand, then a mission to allow animation, sound, and greater audio/video flexibility into webpages. A huge range of companies were on a mission to make this happen. While looking back it might seem like one or two tried, it was actually a bunch of companies, but out of the wreckage of experimentation and effort came a couple big winners: Shockwave and Flash.

Flash had once been called SmartSketch in 1993, which was rewritten as FutureWave, and was actually a challenger to Shockwave until purchased by Macromedia, who handled creation software and playback software for both products.

Flash had many things going for it – the ability to compress down significantly made it a big advantage in the dial-up web era. It could also shift playback quality to adjust to a wide variety of machines. Finally, it was incredibly easy to use – creation software allowed a beginner or novice to make surprisingly complicated and flexible graphic and sound shows that ran beautifully on web browsers without requiring deep knowledge of individual operating systems and programming languages.

From roughly 2000 to 2005, Flash was the top of the heap for a generation of creative artists, animators and small studios. Literally thousands and thousands of individual works were released on the web. Flash could also be used to make engaging menu and navigation systems for webpages, and this was used by many major and minor players on the Web to bring another layer of experience to their users. (There were, of course, detractors and critics of use of Flash this way – accessibility was a major issue and the locked-in nature of Flash as a menu system meant it was extremely brittle and prone to errors on systems as time went on.)

This period was the height of Flash. Nearly every browser could be expected to have a “Flash Plugin” to make it work, thousands of people were experimenting with Flash to make art and entertainment, and an audience of millions, especially young ones, looked forward to each new release.

However, cracks appeared on the horizon.

The Downfall of Flash

Macromedia was acquired by Adobe in 2005, who renamed Flash to Adobe Flash and began extensive upgrades and changes to the Flash environment. Flash became a near operating system in itself. But these upgrades brought significant headaches and security problems. Backwards compatibility became an issue, as well as losing interest by novice creators. Social networks and platforms became notably hostile to user-created artworks being loaded in their walled gardens.

It all came to a head in 2010, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs released an open letter called “Thoughts on Flash”. The letter was criticized and received strong condemnation from Adobe, and Apple ultimately backed off their plan (although work was done to support alternate tools).

The call-out, even if not initially successful, ended the party.

In November of 2011, Adobe announced it was ending support of Flash for mobile web browsers, and in 2017, announced it was discontinuing Flash altogether for 2020.

Flash’s final death-blow was the introduction of HTML 5 in 2014. With its ground-up acknowledgement of audio and video items being as important as text and images, HTML 5 had significant support for animation, sound and video at the browser level. This mean increased speed, compatibility, and less concern about a specific plugin being installed and from what source – audio/video items just worked and Flash, while still used in some quarters and certainly needed to view older works, stopped being the go-to approach for web designers.

What Are We Losing When We Lose Flash?

Like any container, Flash itself is not as much of a loss as all the art and creativity it held. Without a Flash player, flash animations don’t work. It’s not like an image or sound file where a more modern player could still make the content accessible in the modern era. If there’s no Flash Player, there’s nothing like Flash, which is a tragedy.

As you’ll see in the collection at the Archive, Flash provided a gateway for many young creators to fashion near-professional-level games and animation, giving them the first steps to a later career. Companies created all sorts of unique works that became catchphrases and memes for many, and memories they can still recall. Flash also led to unusual side-paths like “advergames”, banners that played full games to entice you to buy a product. Clones of classic arcade games abounded, as well as truly twisted and unique experiences unfettered by needing a budget or committee to come to reality. A single person working in their home could hack together a convincing program, upload it to a huge clearinghouse like Newgrounds, and get feedback on their work. Some creators even made entire series of games, each improving on the last, until they became full professional releases on consoles and PCs.

Why We Emulate Flash

The Internet Archive has moved aggressively in making a whole range of older software run in the browser over the past decade. We’ve done this project, The Emularity, because one of our fundamental tenets is Access Drives Preservation; being able to immediately experience a version of the software in your browser, while not perfect or universal, makes it many times more likely that support will arrive to preserve these items.

Flash is in true danger of sinking beneath the sea, because of its depending on a specific, proprietary player to be available. As Adobe Flash is discontinued, many operating systems will automatically strip the player out of the browser and system. (As of this writing, it is already coming to fruition a month before the end-of-life deadline.) More than just dropping support, the loss of the player means the ability of anyone to experience Flash is dropping as well. Supporting Ruffle is our line in the sand from oblivion’s gaze.

Credit Where Due

This project is by no means an Internet Archive-only production, although assistance from Dan Brooks, James Baicoianu, Tracey Jacquith, Samuel Stoller and Hank Bromley played a huge part.

The Ruffle Team has been working on their emulator for months and improving it daily. (Ruffle welcomes new contributors for the project at ruffle.rs.)

The BlueMaxima Flashpoint Project has been working for years to provide a desktop solution to playable web animation and multimedia, including Flash. Clocking in at nearly 500 gigabytes of data and growing, the project is located here: https://bluemaxima.org/flashpoint/

A shout-out to Guy Sowden, who first drafted the inclusion of Ruffle in the Emularity before it was refined elsewhere; your efforts set the ball rolling.

And finally, a huge thanks to the community of Flash creators whose creative and wonderful projects over the years led to inspiration in its preservation. We hope you’ll like your new, permanent home.

Bonus Section: Adding Your Own Flash Animations to the Archive!

For the creators, artists and collectors who have .swf files from the era of Flash and would like to see them uploaded to the Archive and working like our collection, here’s some simple instructions to do so.

Please note: Ruffle is a developing emulator, and compatibility with SWF files is continually improving but is not perfect. They have provided a test environment here to see if your SWF file will work. Please take the time to test before uploading to the Archive.

The Archive looks for one mediatype setting (software) and two metadata pairs set (emulator and emulator_ext) to know whether an item can be run in the Ruffle emulator. Here are those two settings:

emulator set to ruffle-swf
emulator_ext set to swf

The emulator only works with a single SWF file at the moment, which should have no spaces in it. With all these conditions in place, the swf item should be offered up to play and the emulator should work.

When uploading to the Archive, accurate or complete descriptions, title, creation date, are all optional but strongly encouraged to provide context for users. Additionally, if you create an image file (jpg, png or gif) and name it itemname_screenshot.ext,, like itemname_screenshot.png, it will become the official screenshot and thumbnail for the item. Notice how we named things here:

https://archive.org/download/flash_loituma

We’re here to help you if you run into any snags or issues. There’s no other location on the internet that does things quite this way, so if you do run into problems, feel free to mail Jason Scott about tech support and whatever assistance can be given will be provided.

Where Your Donation Goes

As an independent nonprofit library, the Internet Archive is powered by donations from individual users, and every little bit helps. But have you ever wondered how your donations are used? Or what impact your giving has on our work? The contributions we receive are crucial to continuing our mission—here are a few ways they help!

Infrastructure

The Internet Archive builds and maintains all of its own infrastructure, rather than contracting it out. Right now we’re holding more than 70 petabytes of data, including millions of books, hundreds of millions of webpages, and thousands of collections focused on everything from video gaming to opera music. That’s a lot of storage space!

The donations we receive help us purchase servers, provide bandwidth, and pay the electricity bills, so that anyone, anywhere, can access our resources. This year our systems have seen more use than ever before, and we were able to make some upgrades thanks to the generosity of our patrons. Your donations allow us to serve more than 1.5 million visitors every day!

Staff

All those servers need people to build and maintain them. The website needs programmers to develop it, the collections need archivists to organize them, and our patrons need librarians to answer their questions. We employ 150 people around the world to scan books, build software, maintain data centers, acquire new materials, and find ways to make the archive better for our users. That’s a small staff for one of the world’s top 300 websites—and in 2020, they’ve stretched even farther by working remotely to keep the archive online. Most of our employees could make more at a profit-driven company, but they’ve chosen instead to work at a nonprofit where every dollar counts and the mission comes first.

Our Projects

Most importantly, the generosity of our users is used to fund our work! These projects include the Wayback Machine, a crucial tool for preserving the history of the web. In an era of disinformation and misinformation, having documentation of what’s being said and who’s saying it is absolutely critical—and your donations help us keep the record straight.

We also use patron contributions to run the Open Library, a free, digital lending library of over 4 million eBooks that can be read in a browser or downloaded for reading off-line. It costs us just $20 to acquire, digitize, and preserve a book forever, making it available to readers around the world—and thanks to the contributions from our patrons, we’re always adding to the stacks!

Other projects that your donations fund include the Decentralized Web initiative, the TV News Archive, and our preservation of open access journals. We also use donations to help acquire, transport, and digitize special collections—such as ephemera from the Tytell Typewriter Company, the Marygrove College Library, or a dizzying array of 78 rpm records.

How to Help

If you’d like to make a donation to the Internet Archive, we’d greatly appreciate your support! Your contribution helps us survive, thrive, and keep growing. In addition to our online donations portal, there are several other options for how you can give. If you would like to make a securities donation or receive information about estate planning, email joy@archive.org. You can even donate using cryptocurrency!

If you’re unable to donate at the moment—or if you’ve already given—there are still ways you can lend a hand. Using Amazon Smile and setting the Internet Archive as your preferred charity will mean that we get a small donation every time you make a purchase. If your employer matches charitable contributions, you can easily double your impact—check your company here! And if you’re looking for more small ways you can help out, check out this blog post on how to make a difference right now without leaving the house.

We’re so grateful for each and every person who chooses to contribute to us. Thanks for your support, and enjoy the archive!

Internet Archive Participates in DOAJ-Led Collaboration to Improve the Preservation of OA Journals

Since 2017, Internet Archive has pursued dedicated technical and partnership work to help preserve and provide perpetual access to open access scholarly literature and other outputs. See our original announcement related to this work and a recent update on progress. The below official press release announces an exciting new multi-institutional collaboration in this area.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the CLOCKSS Archive, Internet Archive, Keepers Registry/ISSN International Centre and Public Knowledge Project (PKP) have agreed to partner to provide an alternative pathway for the preservation of small-scale, APC-free, Open Access journals.

The recent study authored by M.Laakso, L.Matthias, and N.Jahn has revived academia’s concern over the disappearance of the scholarly record disseminated in Open Access (OA) journals.

Their research focuses on OA journals as at risk of vanishing, and “especially small-scale and APC-free journals […] with limited financial resources” that often “opt for lightweight technical solutions” and “cannot afford to enroll in preservation schemes.” The authors have used data available in the Directory of Open Access Journals to come up with the conclusion that just under half of the journals indexed in DOAJ participate in preservation schemes. Their findings “suggest that current approaches to digital preservation are successful in archiving content from larger journals and established publishing houses but leave behind those that are more at risk.” They call for new preservation initiatives “to develop alternative pathways […] better suited for smaller journals that operate without the support of large, professional publishers.”

Answering that call, the joint initiative proposed by the five organisations aims at offering an affordable archiving option to OA journals with no author fees (“diamond” OA) registered with DOAJ, as well as raising awareness among the editors and publishers of these journals about the importance of enrolling with a preservation solution. DOAJ will act as a single interface with CLOCKSS, PKP and Internet Archive and facilitate a connection to these services for interested journals. Lars Bjørnhauge, DOAJ Managing Editor, said: “That this group of organisations are coming together to find a solution to the problem of “vanishing” journals is exciting. It comes as no surprise that journals with little to no funding are prone to disappearing. I am confident that we can make a real difference here.”

Reports regarding the effective preservation of the journals’ content will be aggregated by the ISSN International Centre (ISSN IC) and published in the Keepers Registry. Gaëlle Béquet, ISSN IC Director, commented: “As the operator of the Keepers Registry service, the ISSN International Centre receives inquiries from journal publishers looking for archiving solutions. This project is a new step in the development of our service to meet this need in a transparent and diverse way involving all our partners.”

About 50% of the journals identified by DOAJ as having no archiving solution in place use the Open Journal System (OJS). Therefore, the initiative will also identify and encourage journals on PKP’s OJS platform to preserve their content in the PKP Preservation Network (PKP PN), or to use another supported solution if the OJS instance isn’t new enough to be compatible with the PN integration (OJS 3.1.2+). 

The partners will then follow up by assessing the success and viability of the initiative with an aim to open it up to new archiving agencies and other groups of journals indexed in DOAJ to consolidate preservation actions and ensure service diversity.

DOAJ will act as the central hub where publishers will indicate that they want to participate. Archiving services, provided by CLOCKSS, Internet Archive and PKP will expand their existing capacities. These agencies will report their metadata to the Keepers Registry to provide an overview of the archiving efforts. 

Project partners are currently exploring business and financial sustainability models and outlining areas for technical collaboration.


DOAJ is a community-curated list of peer-reviewed, open access journals and aims to be the starting point for all information searches for quality, peer reviewed open access material. DOAJ’s mission is to increase the visibility, accessibility, reputation, usage and impact of quality, peer-reviewed, open access scholarly research journals globally, regardless of discipline, geography or language. DOAJ will work with editors, publishers and journal owners to help them understand the value of best practice publishing and standards and apply those to their own operations. DOAJ is committed to being 100% independent and maintaining all of its services and metadata as free to use or reuse for everyone.

CLOCKSS is a not-for-profit joint venture among the world’s leading academic publishers and research libraries whose mission is to build a sustainable, international, and geographically distributed dark archive with which to ensure the long-term survival of Web-based scholarly publications for the benefit of the greater global research community. https://www.clockss.org.

Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library, top 200 website at https://archive.org/, and archive of over 60PB of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more. The Internet Archive partners with over 800 libraries, universities, governments, non-profits, scholarly communications, and open knowledge organizations around the world to advance the shared goal of “Universal Access to All Knowledge.” Since 2017, Internet Archive has pursued partnerships and technical work with a focus on preserving all publicly accessible research outputs, especially at-risk, open access journal literature and data, and providing mission-aligned, non-commercial open infrastructure for the preservation of scholarly knowledge.

Keepers Registry hosted by the ISSN International Centre, an intergovernmental organisation under the auspices of UNESCO, is a global service that monitors the archiving arrangements for continuing resources including e-serials. A dozen archiving agencies all around the world currently report to Keepers Registry. The Registry has three main purposes: 1/ to enable librarians, publishers and policy makers to find out who is looking after what e-content, how, and with what terms of access; 2/ to highlight e-journals which are still “at risk of loss” and need to be archived; 3/ to showcase the archiving organizations around the world, i.e. the Keepers, which provide the digital shelves for access to content over the long term.

PKP is a multi-university and long-standing research project that develops (free) open source software to improve the quality and reach of scholarly publishing. For more than twenty years, PKP has played an important role in championing open access. Open Journal Systems (OJS) was released in 2002 to help reduce cost as a barrier to creating and consuming scholarship online. Today, it is the world’s most widely used open source platform for journal publishing: approximately 42% of the journals in the DOAJ identify OJS as their platform/host/aggregator. In 2014, PKP launched its own Private LOCKSS Network (now the PKP PN) to offer OJS journals unable to invest in digital preservation a free, open, and trustworthy service. 

For more information, contact: 

DOAJ: Dom Mitchell, dom@doaj.org

CLOCKSS: Craig Van Dyck, cvandyck@clockss.org

Internet Archive: Jefferson Bailey, jefferson@archive.org

Keepers Registry: Gaëlle Béquet, gaelle.bequet@issn.org

PKP: James MacGregor, jbm9@sfu.ca

Fact Checks and Context for Wayback Machine Pages

Fact checking organizations and origin websites sometimes have information about pages archived in the Wayback Machine. The Internet Archive has started to surface some of these annotations for Wayback Machine users. We are attempting to preserve our digital history but recognize the issues around providing access to false and misleading information coming from different sources. By providing convenient links to contextual information we hope that our patrons will better understand what they are reading in the Wayback Machine.

As an example, Politifact has investigated a claim included in a webpage that we archived. Our.news has matched this URL to the Politifact review which allowed us to provide a yellow context banner for Wayback Machine patrons. 

In a different case, we surfaced the discovery that a webpage is part of a disinformation campaign according to the researchers at Graphika and link to their research report

As a last example, the Internet Archive archived a Medium post that was subsequently removed based on a violation of their Covid-19 Content Policy.

As a library, our intention is to provide access to source material that might otherwise disappear but doing so with context prominently displayed.

We would like to acknowledge the hard work of the organizations we are building upon in order to provide context for archived web pages: FactCheck.org, Check Your Fact, Lead Stories, Politifact, Washington Post Fact-Checker, AP News Fact Check, USA Today Fact Check, Graphika, Stanford Internet Observatory, and Our.news.

We welcome feedback and suggestions about how to make the Wayback Machine better. 

What Information Should we be Preserving in Filecoin?

The folks at Protocol Labs love their rockets. And outerspace. And exploration.

So when Filecoin, their cryptocurrency-fueled decentralized storage network launched recently, it was no surprise they called it Filecoin Liftoff. In the payload of that Filecoin rocket are treasures from the Internet Archive:

For 15 years, LibriVox has harnessed a global army of volunteers, creating 14,200 free public domain audiobook projects in 100 different languages. Where else can you listen to Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in French, Spanish, English, German or Dutch…for free? Now, phrases of Shakespeare, Poe, Joyce and Dante will be stored across the Filecoin mainnet, broken into packets to be reconstituted when needed—perhaps in a new century.

The same destiny awaits the home movies, stock footage, educational and amateur films in the public domain, lovingly curated by the Prelinger Archives founder, Rick Prelinger. He encourages creatives to download and reuse these videos, creating countless new works like this one by musician Jordan Paul:

Now filmmakers and connoisseurs can sleep easier, knowing that a new, distributed copy of those films lives in the Filecoin network, (along with the main copy and multiple backups in the Internet Archive’s repositories.)

So what’s next Filecoin explorers?

Today, Protocol Labs and the Internet Archive are happy to announce the Filecoin Archives, a new community project to curate, disseminate and preserve important open access information often at risk of being lost. You can get involved in so many ways: by nominating information to be stored, uploading it to the Internet Archive, preserving the data as a Filecoin node while earning Filecoin for sharing your storage capacity.

What information should we be preserving? Please tell us!

How about 166,000 public domain books (60 terabytes) from the Library of Congress? Including 2100 texts about Abraham Lincoln and slavery?

Or Open Access Journal articles? (The Internet Archive has collected 9.1 million of them.)

It takes a host of global voices with diverse viewpoints to ensure that humanity’s most precious knowledge is represented online and preserved. So we need to hear from you. What open access information or datasets are you interested in preserving?

Between now and November 5, please send us your ideas and vote on the others. We will gather your suggestions, add our own, and publish the list from which we will select information to preserve across a global network of Filecoin nodes.

How to send us your suggestions 

Look for the tweet from @JuanBenet– reply to it with:

  • The Name of the Dataset.
  • The size in GB or TB.
  • An HTTP or @IPFS link to the data.
  • Why it matters.
  • #FilecoinArchives

Bonus points if the data is already stored in the Internet Archive or if you upload it there. Vote for ideas by retweeting them and please help us spread the word!

Juan Benet presents his early vision at the 2016 Decentralized Web Summit at the Internet Archive in San Francisco.

In 2015, a young developer named Juan Benet wandered into the Internet Archive headquarters. He painted a picture of a decentralized stack, something he now calls Web3, where the storage, transport and other layers would be distributed across many machines. Together with the DWeb community, we have imagined a web with our values written into the code: values such as privacy, security, reliability, and control over one’s own identity.  With the launch of Filecoin’s mainnet, a piece of that new web is perhaps within reach. 

Now it’s up to us to make sure the payload includes humanity’s most important knowledge.

Can You Help us Make the 19th Century Searchable?

In 1847, Frederick Douglass started a newspaper advocating the abolition of slavery that ran until 1851.  After the Civil War, there was a newspaper for freed slaves, the Freedmen’s Record.  The Internet Archive is bringing these and many more works online for free public access. But there’s a problem: 

Our Optical Character Recognition (OCR), while the best commercially available OCR technology, is not very good at identifying text from older documents.  

Take for example, this newspaper from 1847. The images are not that great, but a person can read them:

The problem is  our computers’ optical character recognition tech gets it wrong, and the columns get confused.

What we need is “Culture Tech” (a riff on fintech, or biotech) and Culture Techies to work on important and useful projects–the things we need, but are probably not going to get gushers of private equity interest to fund. There are thousands of professionals taking on similar challenges in the field of digital humanities and we want to complement their work with industrial-scale tech that we can apply to cultural heritage materials.

One such project would be to work on technologies to bring 19th-century documents fully digital. We need to improve  OCR to enable full text search, but we also need help segmenting documents into columns and articles. The Internet Archive has lots of test materials and thousands are uploading more documents all the time.    

What we do not have is a good way to integrate work on these projects with the Internet Archive’s processing flow.  So we need help and ideas there as well.

Maybe we can host an “Archive Summer of CultureTech” or something…Just ideas.   Maybe working with a university department that would want to build programs and classes around Culture Tech… If you have ideas or skills to contribute, please post a comment here or send an email to info@archive.org with some of this information.

How Internet Archive and controlled digital lending can help course reserves this fall

Webster Library’s Course Reserves Room, Concordia University by Librarianpam under CC BY-SA 4.0

I host regular webinars about the Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program, helping librarians and others understand how controlled digital lending works, and how their library can make their print collections available to users online. The question of how to safely handle course reserves is clearly among the top priorities for academic librarians as they approach fall semester, just a few short weeks away. At nearly every webinar session since early March, and certainly every session this summer, librarians have raised the question of how controlled digital lending can work for course reserves.  

We’re getting such a large number of inquiries on this topic that I thought it would be helpful to outline how Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program and controlled digital lending can help your library with course reserves this fall, and where we may have limitations in supporting your full suite of needs.

What are course reserves?

Course reserves are books & other materials that instructors and students need for particular courses. Materials are requested to be put “on reserve” by the instructor. The library sources those materials and either provides digital access (born digital or scanned) or physical access to the items. 

  • If physical, the library holds a copy behind the circulation desk or in a special room (like the beautiful Course Reserves room in Webster Library at Concordia University, above), and students check out & read the book for a limited period of time. After that time expires, the work is returned and made available for the next student.
  • If digital, the item goes into the library’s e-reserves system and/or the course learning management system, such as Google Classroom, Blackboard, or Canvas, where it can be accessed by students enrolled in the class.

What’s the challenge with course reserves this fall?

Academic libraries have remained open and operational throughout COVID-19 closures, many working with limited-to-no onsite staff.  Their operations were already digital, but distance learning and health and safety issues related to lending physical materials have put a renewed emphasis on digital delivery for fall semester.  As libraries work to meet the needs of students and faculty returning to instruction this fall—either in person, online, or hybrid models—the demand for new ways of managing and serving course reserves is significant.

How can Internet Archive help?

  • Our lending library of 1.5M digitized books is available to your patrons right now.  Our books are available to borrow by anyone with an email address and an internet connection, with a simple signup form.
  • By default our books circulate for one hour, following the usage pattern of our own users and HathiTrust’s Emergency Temporary Access Service. When we have additional copies, books can also be checked out for 14 days.
  • If your library joins the Open Libraries program, we can process your course reserves list (either in MARC format or just a list of ISBNs) and give you back links to the books we’ve already digitized. You can incorporate those links back into your catalog, course reserves system, or learning management system.
    • To be clear, you don’t have to join the program to access our books. Anyone can link to our books right now. If you join, we’ll analyze your records for matches and give you back links. You can also opt to put one copy of your matched books into controlled digital lending so that we have an additional copy to lend, but again, that’s not required.
  • If we don’t have a book you need, you can help bump it up higher in our acquisition wish list by completing this Course Reserves request form, which will ask you to submit the book’s ISBN, title, author, year published, and anticipated # students in the course.
  • If you have a book that we don’t have, and you want to make it available to users to check out online through controlled digital lending, we can work with you to upload your book into our CDL environment. Please read our program limitations below, and reach out to learn more.

Limitations

Internet Archive’s controlled digital lending service is not a perfect match for all course reserve scenarios. You should consider the following program limitations as you plan for fall semester:

  • Your patrons will have to create an account at archive.org to check out books. We don’t connect to eduroam or Shibboleth for single-sign on. (If you’re interested in helping us implement and integrate a Shibboleth connection let us know.) 
  • You can’t limit users for a particular book to students at your school or students in a particular course. We lend to anyone with an archive.org account.
  • We don’t have a calendaring and notification system for one hour loans. Our one hour borrows are first come, first served. We do have waitlists and a notification system for 14 day loans.
  • Books added to CDL or requested to be added to CDL must be published in 2015 or earlier. If you have special needs for accessible texts for more recent books, please reach out.

We understand that our implementation of CDL won’t work for every course reserves use case. We offer our collection to assist libraries and schools in connecting students with books this fall semester. We are guided by our library’s mission to provide “universal access to all knowledge,” especially as library service and educational systems are disrupted due to COVID-19. If you have additional questions about how we can help that are not addressed here, please reach out.

Libraries lend books, and must continue to lend books: Internet Archive responds to publishers’ lawsuit

Yesterday, the Internet Archive filed our response to the lawsuit brought by four commercial publishers to end the practice of Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), the digital equivalent of traditional library lending. CDL is a respectful and secure way to bring the breadth of our library collections to digital learners. Commercial ebooks, while useful, only cover a small fraction of the books in our libraries. As we launch into a fall semester that is largely remote, we must offer our students the best information to learn from—collections that were purchased over centuries and are now being digitized. What is at stake with this lawsuit? Every digital learner’s access to library books. That is why the Internet Archive is standing up to defend the rights of  hundreds of libraries that are using Controlled Digital Lending.

The publishers’ lawsuit aims to stop the longstanding and widespread library practice of Controlled Digital Lending, and stop the hundreds of libraries using this system from providing their patrons with digital books. Through CDL, libraries lend a digitized version of the physical books they have acquired as long as the physical copy doesn’t circulate and the digital files are protected from redistribution. This is how Internet Archive’s lending library works, and has for more than nine years. Publishers are seeking to shut this library down, claiming copyright law does not allow it. Our response is simple: Copyright law does not stand in the way of libraries’ rights to own books, to digitize their books, and to lend those books to patrons in a controlled way.  

What is at stake with this lawsuit? Every digital learner’s access to library books. That is why the Internet Archive is standing up to defend the rights of  hundreds of libraries that are using Controlled Digital Lending.

“The Authors Alliance has several thousand members around the world and we have endorsed the Controlled Digital Lending as a fair use,” stated Pamela Samuelson, Authors Alliance founder and Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law at Berkeley Law. “It’s really tragic that at this time of pandemic that the publishers would try to basically cut off even access to a digital public library like the Internet Archive…I think that the idea that lending a book is illegal is just wrong.”

These publishers clearly intend this lawsuit to have a chilling effect on Controlled Digital Lending at a moment in time when it can benefit digital learners the most. For students and educators, the 2020 fall semester will be unlike any other in recent history. From K-12 schools to universities, many institutions have already announced they will keep campuses closed or severely limit access to communal spaces and materials such as books because of public health concerns. The conversation we must be having is: how will those students, instructors and researchers access information — from textbooks to primary sources? Unfortunately, four of the world’s largest book publishers seem intent on undermining both libraries’ missions and our attempts to keep educational systems operational during a global health crisis.

Ten percent of the world’s population experience disabilities that impact their ability to read. For these learners, digital books are a lifeline. The publishers’ lawsuit against the Internet Archive calls for the destruction of more than a million digitized books.

The publishers’ lawsuit does not stop at seeking to end the practice of Controlled Digital Lending. These publishers call for the destruction of the 1.5 million digital books that Internet Archive makes available to our patrons. This form of digital book burning is unprecedented and unfairly disadvantages people with print disabilities. For the blind, ebooks are a lifeline, yet less than one in ten exists in accessible formats. Since 2010, Internet Archive has made our lending library available to the blind and print disabled community, in addition to sighted users. If the publishers are successful with their lawsuit, more than a million of those books would be deleted from the Internet’s digital shelves forever.

I call on the executives at Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House to come together with us to help solve the pressing challenges to access to knowledge during this pandemic. Please drop this needless lawsuit.