Oct 26th Event: Celebrating 20 Years of Archiving the Web


          The Web dwells in a never-ending present. It is—elementally—ethereal, ephemeral, unstable, and unreliable.         

                               –Jill Lepore, from “The Cobweb: Can the Internet be Archived?”                                                    in the New Yorker, January 26, 2015

For twenty years, here at the Internet Archive, we’ve been trying to capture lightning in a bottle. How do you archive the “ethereal, ephemeral, unstable and unreliable“ Web? Since 1996, that has been part of our daily work. We crawl the Web, preserve it, try to make it play back, as if you were back in 1999 on your own GeoCities page, delighting in that animated Under Construction GIF you just posted.

On October 26, 2016, we will be celebrating our 20th Anniversary, and we hope you will join us. We’ve been grappling with how to convey the enormity of our task. How do you visualize the universe of the Web—the audio, images, Web pages, and software that we’ve been archiving for the last 20 years? When you come to our celebration, we’ll be presenting the work of media innovators, each trying to capture the ephemeral Web:


One view from Cyberscape, Owen Cornec and Vinay Goel’s visualization of the top 800,000 Web sites

  • Cyberscape—Data visualization engineer, Owen Cornec and Internet Archive Data Scientist, Vinay Goel team up to create an interactive exploration of the top sites on the Web, as captured by the Wayback Machine as early as 1996.


  • Deleted Cities—Artist Richard Vijgen’s interactive visualization of GeoCities, once the Web’s largest online community. When Yahoo decided GeoCities was obsolete in 2009, the Internet Archive and Archive Team rushed to preserve tens of millions of GeoCities “homestead” pages before they were erased. Vijgen’s work takes you back to the neighborhoods and virtual cities where a vibrant society once lived online.

Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky will perform a newly commissioned piece on October 26.

  • DJ Spooky aka Paul D. Miller & media innovator, Greg Niemeyer join forces to create an audio and video composition, drawn completely from media preserved in the Internet Archive. DJ Spooky’s work ranges from producing 14 albums to the DVD anthology, “Pioneers of African American Cinema,” about which the New York Times wrote “there has never been a more significant video release.”
  • How Media & Messaging are Shaping the 2016 Election—journalist and former Managing Editor of the Sunlight Foundation, Kathy Kiely, explains how short snippets—of debates, political ads, cable news—are altering the Presidential landscape. This analysis is made possible in part by the Internet Archive’s Political Ad Archive, preserving key ads and debates and monitoring how they are used in swing states.


  • Defining Memes & Memories—perhaps the world’s only Free Range Archivist, Jason Scott, takes you on a wild ride through 20 years of memes that captured the global imagination.  From the original keyboard cat to Three Wolf Moon, Scott explores the Archive items and collections that rocked the world.

And to round up the evening, Internet Archive Founder, Brewster Kahle, will reflect upon his lifelong obsession—backing up the Web, making it more reliable and secure. Our work is just beginning, but if we are successful, new generations of learners will be able to access the amazing universe of the Web, learn from it, and build societies that are even better.

GET YOUR FREE TICKET TO “How to Build an Archive—20 Years in the Making.” Wednesday, October 26, 2016 from 5-9:30 p.m. at the Internet Archive, 300 Funston Avenue, San Francisco.


7 thoughts on “Oct 26th Event: Celebrating 20 Years of Archiving the Web

  1. Pingback: Paul Biba’s eBook, eLibrary and ePublishing news compilation for week ending Saturday, October 8 | The Digital Reader

  2. Pingback: Capturing Lightning in a Bottle: Archiving the Web for 20 Years — Internet Archive Blogs – machimach

  3. Bab Mamadu

    Congratulations everybody! Hope you continue in your great work archiving knowledge for generations to come

  4. Gillian van der Heijden

    Most interesting, especially as I recently remarked that some ancient knowledge and writings were buried for centuries and found by archaeologists but how could the nebulous world of the twentieth and twenty-first century be found written as it is on thin-air.
    May Internet Archive prove durable.

  5. Dr Rainer Marwedel

    I can’t imagine the world of books without the Internet Archive in San Francisco; but don’t forget that there are libraries all over the world with real books. Go visit your local library und borrow books as well as browsing through the Archive.

    1. Wendy Hanamura Post author

      Dear Dr. Marwedel,
      We couldn’t agree more! Our vision is that there will be many libraries–with both digital and physical holdings–serving patrons everywhere. We want to help these libraries transform their analog collections into the digital–a new Carnegie Moment for this century. Onward!

      Wendy Hanamura

Comments are closed.