I know I’m not the only one who wished for a time machine growing up. A real, bona fide, Back-to the Future-rivaling time machine, mad scientist and all. Even though my parents and grandparents always tried to convince me that life “back in the day” was much harder and would have required me to walk to school, use “ma’am” and “sir” EVERY time, and manually change the television channels for adults at their every whim, I still desired to experience the past. I think what most attracted me to the idea of a time machine was the ability to see and understand what people from the past liked to do, what interested them, how they affected change, and what visions they had for the future.
Even now, at my ripe old age of twenty-four (#millennialsrock!), I shudder to think that there is an entire generation out there, breathing, eating, and tweeting, with zero knowledge of a concept that some of us Internet oldies like to call Web 1.0. In fact, Butch Lazorchak and Cheryl Lederle allude to this very phenomenon on their recent blog post featured on the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog. They state:
“If you believe the Web (and who doesn’t believe everything they read on the Web?), it boastfully celebrated its 25th birthday last year. Twenty-five years is long enough for the first “children of the Web” to be fully-grown adults, just now coming of age to recognize that the Web that grew up around them has irrevocably changed.”
As a true “child of the web,” I can attest to the fact that yes, the web has definitely changed. So much so that I feel the need to explain my prior mention of the term “Web 1.0.” When I say Web 1.0, I’m speaking of a time before you could share, like, comment, retweet, or repost anything on the web. I’m speaking of a concept commonly known as the “read-only” web. In other words, Web 1.0 is “the first implementation of the web” that only allowed users to search for information, access it, and read it—that is all.
For those of us who were around to experience Web 1.0, let’s be real…we hardly remember it. In my own experience, Web 2.0 seems to have an incredibly effective way of just wiping my memory clean of anything that came before it. Even the constant changes within Web 2.0 applications are hard to keep up with. I don’t even remember what Facebook looked like when I joined it in 2007. As we embark on Web 3.0 and the advent of the Semantic Web, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before Web 2.0 becomes an ancient artifact. But just because we may not remember our own web history does not mean that it hasn’t been preserved…
In 1996, Brewster Kahle got the feeling that this whole “web” thing might be a bit of a game changer for documenting human culture. Although the web was still in its infancy, Kahle founded the Internet Archive (www.archive.org) with the goal of building an Internet library. But the Internet Archive isn’t your average digital library. It’s bigger, like, a lot bigger. It doesn’t just contain books, movies, music, and images—it also has archived web pages. Since 1996, the Internet Archive has preserved about 480 billion web pages and over 80 million websites, making it the largest publicly available web archive in existence. For those of you purists who like things in terms of bits and bytes, as of December 1, 2014, the Internet Archive’s web page collection contained almost 9 petabytes of data, which supersedes the amount of text at the Library of Congress. We can view these archives using the Internet Archives’ WayBack Machine (https://archive.org/web/). If you haven’t visited the WayBack Machine, please go. You will have WAY too much fun. After all, it’s as close as we’re going to get to that time machine!
Living out my childhood dreaming of having a time machine is all well and good, but there are a few heavier implications here as well. Preserving the web is not just something to do for fun; it is a cultural necessity. A recent study conducted by Andy Jackson at the British Library and presented at the 2015 International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) General Assembly confirms this point. After ten years of studying content from the UK Web Archive, “[Jackson] found that after one year[,] half of the content was either gone or had been changed so much as to be unrecognizable. After ten years almost no content still resides at its original URL.”
Web archiving is important because it preserves knowledge, culture, and a human experience that will not always be there, despite what we may think. Images of the “Occupy” movements, presidential election websites, the 2011 Egyptian Revolution—these are all examples of significant cultural and political events, documented largely on the web, and hence, at risk of eventually vanishing from societal memory if they are not actively and intentionally saved. That’s why web archiving initiatives are so imperative. The Internet Archive is certainly not the only web archiving initiative out there. The scholars Daniel Gomes and Miguel Costa reported that as of April 2013, there were at least sixty-four web archiving initiatives thriving worldwide. You can find a list of these initiatives on their wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Web_archiving_initiatives.
I know, this web stuff is heavy, right? As we millennials like to say, “ish” just got real. But no need to panic 🙂 Through web archiving, we have the tools to let the same “ish” be real for someone one hundred years from now, even if by that time they are working with Web 30.0 or something. How cool is that?
 Butch Lazorchak and Cheryl Lederle, “The K-12 Web Archiving Program: Preserving the Web from a Youthful Point of View,” Teaching with the Library of Congress (blog), May 21, 2015, http://blogs.loc.gov/teachers/2015/05/the-k-12-web-archiving-program-preserving-the-web-from-a-youthful-point-of-view/.
 Tom Fleerackers, “Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0 vs. Web 3.0 vs. Web 4.0 vs. Web 5.0 – A bird’s eye on the evolution and definition,” Flat World Business (blog), accessed June 5, 2015, https://flatworldbusiness.wordpress.com/flat-education/previously/web-1-0-vs-web-2-0-vs-web-3-0-a-bird-eye-on-the-definition/.
 I still don’t understand Web 3.0 all that well, but if you want to read more about it, there’s a good article on howstuffworks.com (http://computer.howstuffworks.com/web-30.htm). The World Wide Web Consortium also has great information about the Semantic Web (http://www.w3.org/standards/semanticweb/).
 Lori Donovan and Scott Reed, “Archive-It Archiving and Preserving Web Content,” (webinar presentation, June 2, 2015).
 “Frequently Asked Questions,” Internet Archive, accessed June 5, 2015, https://archive.org/about/faqs.php#The_Wayback_Machine.
 Abbey Potter, “Dodge that Memory Hole: Saving Digital News,” The Signal: Digital Preservation (blog), June 2, 2015, http://blogs.loc.gov/digitalpreservation/2015/06/dodge-that-memory-hole-saving-digital-news/.
 Daniel Gomes and Miguel Costa, “The Importance of Web Archiving for Humanities,” International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing 8, no. 1 (2014), http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=7&sid=16f903a5-d7c9-41bd-9926-be84687647c8%40sessionmgr114&hid=117.