THE BRITISH LIBRARY

UK Web Archive blog

04 October 2012

Exploring the lost web

There has been some attention paid recently to the rate at which the web decays. A very interesting recent article by SalahEldeen and Nelson looked at the rate at which online sources shared via social media subsequently disappear. The authors concluded that 11% would disappear in the first year, and after that there would be a loss of 0.02% per day (that's another 7.24% per year); a startling rate of loss.

There are ways and means of doing something about it, not least through national and international web archives like ourselves. And we preserve many extremely interesting sites that are already lost from the live UK web domain.

Some of them relate to prominent public figures who have either passed away, or are no longer in that public role. One example of the former is the site of the former Labour MP and foreign secretary Robin Cook, who died in 2005. One of the latter is that of his colleague Clare Short, who left parliamentary politics in 2010 after serving as secretary of state for international development.

Organisations also often have limited lives as well, of course, and amongst our collections is the site of the Welsh Language Board, set up by act of Parliament in 2003, and abolished by later legislation in 2012. Perhaps more familiar was one of the major corporate casualties of recent years, Woolworths, which went into administration in 2009.

Some others relate to events that have happened or campaigns that have ended. In the case of some of the more 'official' sites, we in the web archiving team can anticipate when sites are likely to be at risk, and can take steps to capture them. In other cases, we need members of the public to let us know. If you know of a site which you think is important, and that may be at risk, please let us know using our nomination form.

One such site is One and Other, Anthony Gormley's live artwork on the vacant fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. Also in the archive is David Cameron's campaign site when a candidate for the constituency of Witney in the 2005 general election. Finally, there is What a difference a day makes, a remarkable blog post from one who experienced the London terrorist attacks of 2005. All three now exist only in the web archive.

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