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Digital Archaeology Show Reveals 'Lost' Web Sites 113

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the find-the-buried-treasure dept.
Stoobalou writes "The world's first ever 'archaeological dig' of the internet is set to begin this week in London's über-trendy Shoreditch. The exhibition, entitled Digital Archaeology, kicks off today to mark the 20th anniversary of the first stirrings of the world wide web. According to its organisers, valuable evidence from the interweb's early days is at risk of being lost forever. Digital Archaeology is an attempt to kick-start a wider attempt to archive the web in Britain's first 'digital archive'."
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Digital Archaeology Show Reveals 'Lost' Web Sites

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  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @11:39AM (#34187302) Journal
    When they started the dig, the scientists were amazed to see the old now defunct web has buried in it the perfect tool to do the digging! Gophers!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @12:06PM (#34187650)

      When they started the dig, the scientists were amazed to see the old now defunct web has buried in it the perfect tool to do the digging! Gophers!

      Oh how I miss Gopher, Archie, and Veronica and gang. The modern-day World Wide Web is basically commerce-oriented with actual information content on a steady decline. Sad.

      Forget Web 2.0. Let's move to Web 3.0 and a return to the original purpose of the Internet and World Wide Web, namely information-sharing and collaboration for the enrichment (betterment) of society through knowldge and its applications to solving problems.

      • Do you know how the foreign rescuers were able to understand the requests for help in Spanish during the Haiti earthquake? They fed the messages to a website, and a large community of english and spanish speaking people started realtime translating and feeding it back to the rescuers.

        Examples of betterment of society using the Web are all around.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Why were there requests for help in Spanish in a French speaking country?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by FoolishOwl (1698506)

          Indeed. I also often think of the importance of anti-war college students in the US who were chatting directly with Serbian college students during that war, and the potential long-term importance of that.

          While the crassly commercial applications of the Internet have grown exponentially, the projects for the commonweal that have been around since the beginning have steadily grown. It struck me that yesterday at work, I was listening to a presentation on a proprietary search engine; enterprise clients use it

      • by Americano (920576)

        Let's move to Web 3.0 and a return to the original purpose of the Internet.

        Do we have to? I'd rather just read pithy tweets and surf for porn.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        >>>Oh how I miss Gopher, Archie, and Veronica and gang. The modern-day World Wide Web is basically commerce-oriented with actual information content on a steady decline. Sad.

        (50 years ago). Oh how I miss Radio. The modern-day television is basically commerce-oriented, while radio has devolved into a bunch of pop music.
        (80 years ago). Oh how I miss Books. The modern-day radio is basically commerce-oriented, while books provided ad-free entertainment.
        (100 years ago). Oh how I miss Live pianos/ba

        • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @02:52PM (#34189346) Homepage Journal

          (50 years ago). Oh how I miss Radio. The modern-day television is basically commerce-oriented, while radio has devolved into a bunch of pop music.
          (80 years ago). Oh how I miss Books. The modern-day radio is basically commerce-oriented, while books provided ad-free entertainment.
          (100 years ago). Oh how I miss Live pianos/bands. The modern-day grammophone is basically commerce-oriented with actual talent on a steady decline - replaced with pop stars.

          The problem with your analogy is that we still have radios, books, and live bands, but the internet we had ten and more years ago is long gone. It's all commercials now. Back in the nineties people were bitching about the few pages that had single banner ads.

          • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @03:12PM (#34189530) Journal

            >>>It's all commercials now.

            As is typical with these kinds of statements ("all" "nothing left") it is false. It would be more accurate to say the web "almost" all gone, but there are still lots of websites that resemble the early web (no or few ads). There's even a few gopher sites around, and of course the pure-text Usenet which dates back to the 80s.

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              That's true, but they're few and far between now. The noise is drowning out the signal.

              I wonder what [insert epithet here] modded your comment "troll"? I hope someone corrects it with an upmod. I don't agree with it, but it's no troll.

          • by mjwalshe (1680392)
            yep and the Fido net people thought that the internet would destroy the fidonet culture - I wonder if they have any thing from the 80's ie PRESTEL and Telecom Gold (Dialcom)
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Raenex (947668)

            the internet we had ten and more years ago is long gone

            I got started on the Net a year before Eternal September, in 1992, and I used to think how terrible it was that the masses would "ruin" it. Yet every year the Net just keeps on getting better and better, because there's more and more information at my fingertips.

          • by markhb (11721)

            Heck, I remember when everyone (at least here on /.) went ballistic when pop-under ads were first created, X10 bought in in a big way and found themselves boycotted into irrelevance. Now who's the biggest popunder offender I see? Netflix! Do we see people boycotting Netflix over their ads? WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?????

          • by mattack2 (1165421)

            The problem with your analogy is that we still have radios, books, and live bands, but the internet we had ten and more years ago is long gone. It's all commercials now. Back in the nineties people were bitching about the few pages that had single banner ads.

            But, just like using a VCR or DVR to avoid commercials on TV, you can avoid most of them on the web. E.g. install the adblock extension and ClickToFlash... or equivalents on other browsers.

        • >>>

          Slashdot does have a quote tag you know. Check it out, you just put <quote> at the front, and </quote> at the end!

          Just try like this: <quote>OP is wrong because....</quote> and when you post it it becomes

          OP is wrong because....

          It really is that simple!

          • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

            No.

            I still drive a 1987 car. Don't see any reason to upgrade from 1987 quoting either, since it still works and is a LOT faster to use.

      • by Urkki (668283)

        Oh how I miss Gopher, Archie, and Veronica and gang. The modern-day World Wide Web is basically commerce-oriented with actual information content on a steady decline. Sad.

        I hope you mean relative information content, because absolute information content is certainly increasing, and very rapidly at that, and that's what matters. Even effective signal-to-noise ratio isn't really getting worse considering all the search tools available. It is easier than ever to get to the interesting information (whatever that may be for an individual), and ignore irrelevant stuff (whatever that may be for an individual).

      • by Gerzel (240421)

        What do you mean miss?

        Why don't you go visit them? They still exist and are still used. And there are still even developers working in their spare time on them.

        If you support them(and bring your friends) they may grow.

    • by datapharmer (1099455) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @12:07PM (#34187666) Homepage
      Yay - text! I was quite thrilled with the technology at the time. Gopher and BBS systems actually made a 1200 baud modem seem useful. For you youngsters that don't know what we're talking about see here [wikimedia.org]. Now get off my lawn.
      • Or here. BBSing on a commodore 64 at 0.3 kb/s - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkHwT6o6Jvw [youtube.com]

        Getting online at these speeds wasn't really any fun though. It was even slower than surfing the modern web on dialup. I later upgraded to a 2.4 kb/s modem and that was much better, although it still took 2 hours to download a single floppy.

        • by Cytotoxic (245301)

          And yet even then, we had porn....
          it took all night to get a single picture, but we had porn!

          And compressed audio too - remember ST-Mod files?

          • No but I remember Commodore Amiga MOD files (where the format originated). ;-) The Amiga was the first computer to have the capability to recreate the Laserdisc games (Dragon's Lair/Space Ace) at home.

            And the 16-color C64 porn did nothing for me, but being able to grab the entire Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue on an Amiga was sheer delight. The poor IBM and Mac users were stuck with 16 and 2 colors respectively. I had a "photorealistic" 4000 colors. (two thumbs up)

      • by xtracto (837672)
        Heh... I still remember going to a research center (CINVESTAV, Mexico) where my father was working and getting into Gopher...

        I was about 10 years old back then, and it was an awesome place...

        Then we got this Mosaic program, with a different structure. And so I discovered the WWW... and immediatly made my Geocities page (sunset strip... even though it had *nothing* to do with music) and started chatting randomly in WBS.

        THose were the days... except that, instead of ads, we had the ubiqutous "this page is und
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I hope they dig up Yello There; it's completely missing from the wayback machine, except for one page on my old Quake site. That parody of Blue's News was hilarious on an almost daily basis, and it's gone now.

  • From TFA:

    "In five years' time or so, I doubt websites will exist and I expect the vast majority of sites from the first twenty years of the web to be gone forever," says Jim Boulton, curator of Digital Archaeology.

    This seems a pretty bold prediction. I know things in The Land Of The Tubes change pretty quickly, but no more websites in five years? Am I misreading that?

    • by Haedrian (1676506)
      Well, if the semantic web starts off, you won't need websites anymore - because you'd just ask your favourite software agent "I want to buy a Brand X cheap t-shirt", press a button and it'll scour the machine-readable servers on the internet and purchase it for you automatically.

      I don't see this happening in 5 years though - people are too lazy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tlhIngan (30335)

        Well, if the semantic web starts off, you won't need websites anymore - because you'd just ask your favourite software agent "I want to buy a Brand X cheap t-shirt", press a button and it'll scour the machine-readable servers on the internet and purchase it for you automatically.

        I don't see this happening in 5 years though - people are too lazy.

        YOu have to admit, though, that the change is happening. But not on the PC, but smartphone. People are getting apps that are frontends to websites - eBay, Facebook,

        • by formfeed (703859)

          People are getting apps that are frontends to websites - eBay, Facebook, Craigslist, NY Times etc.

          True, but that only affects people, for whom the web boils down to a few sites. I admit that's most of today's web traffic. But the "old way" of finding interesting sites and reading other people's contribution is still there. And for this kind of web, the only useful interface is a browser.

          And yes, I might start on slashdot. But unlike Facebook, there is no "slashdot-universe". With topics I find interesting I eventually end up on some non-apped website.

          Blogs? IF there were a blog app, that would cove

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by GameboyRMH (1153867)

          In fact, I think some people consider it to be a huge threat to the open internet when everyone's all cowered away tapping on their smartphones using apps rather than surfing using well-known protocols and standards. And those apps may or may not be using standard protocols. Segmenting the web away, slowly.

          100% agree, it's very bad news, but I think if the iPhone/iPad were to lose popularity the trend would stop. Don't forget these apps were mostly made to work around the iPhone's crippled browsing experience. If another phone with a full-featured browser becomes the most popular (especially if it also has true multitasking with RSS reader widgets, etc) I think the "client app" trend will die off.

          • The iPhone crippled browser experience? Look, I don't think people who bitch about this sort of thing have actually used the iOS Safari. Safari for iOS is not crippled, it's naturally somewhat limited by the sort of hardware it runs on, but it's still a fully functional browser of the open web.

            It's clear that web pages are pushing the limits of what a mobile device can render. Allowing Flash and true multitasking in the web browser would lead to a barely functioning device. The web, with flash and multitas

            • The browser rendering itself is pretty complete minus Flash (which is a big issue, like it or not, and Flash runs fine on my N900 BTW, even before I made a Flashblock plugin to speed things up) but the lack of true multitasking (again, works fine on my N900, which has near-identical specs to an iPhone 3GS) is a major issue. Browsing multiple pages is such a basic part of browsing that all mainstream desktop browsers have had the tabbed interface for years.

              Also, my dual-core 2.2 laptop doesn't slow down for

              • You know Safari on iOS has tabbed browsing don't you?

                As for your N900 running everything just fine, that's not my experience, but maybe we have different thresholds of "just fine" (which is also fine, because we all have a choice here, right?).

                My C2D slows when I have a bunch of Flash stuff open, and cannot play a flash video without blips. Adobe's shit implementation of Flash for Mac? Maybe. Possible scheduler issues in OS X? Maybe, I don't know, but I don't want my Mobile device trying to chug through all

        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          It's happening because people are lazy - you're in a store, why not use your phone to find out if it's a deal, get reviews and other things, right there, right now. Rather than note it down, go home, and spend time on the computer looking it up.

          Umm, how is that lazy? It seems to me it can be argued that it's less lazy than "I'll look it up later".

          It's using an available tool at the relevant time, to make a purchase decision.

      • by glwtta (532858)
        Well, if the semantic web starts off

        That's cute.
    • by whitehaint (1883260) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @11:49AM (#34187434)
      The web will be one big flash site using those neato web 2.0 buttons, and popups all over the place so you know where to get your hover car and penis pills. The future is bright indeed!
    • I'd read that more like a ___ % drop in websites, as the little fun sites people ran for a year get old, and Web 2.0 works hard to punish old content. Then too the big media guys are trying to get a top-100 type mentality going where everything else becomes sub-par, like an "Eden-ization" of the web.

      But "No websites at all" is flat impossible.

      • by delinear (991444)
        More likely he means the migration of what would usually be traditional websites to apps and social media sites. I still don't buy it though, even if FB added e-commerce features, they'd want a cut of the profits and it would still probably be cheaper, easier and allow more control for companies to run their own sites. And there will still be plenty of people who just don't want to do things that way. I think the guy's either an idiot or just trying to stir up debate.
        • by Americano (920576)

          even if FB added e-commerce features, they'd want a cut of the profits and it would still probably be cheaper, easier and allow more control for companies to run their own sites.

          More control? Yes. easier, cheaper? Maybe not. If you don't have the sales volume to justify spending a whole lot of money building an ordering system, a service like paypal (or a similar service through facebook) could very well be popular with small/home business types. Lets you focus on your product, while the people with th

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I think you're reading it wrong. They're not saying that websites won't exist, they're saying that many of today's web sites will be gone forever. Cartainly, many of my favorite sites from ten years ago were gone five years ago.

      • by Rary (566291) *

        Well, the quote specifically says "I doubt websites will exist", not "I doubt today's websites will exist". Nevertheless, I think you're right. Either he was misquoted, or he misspoke, because I think what he was really intending to say was indeed what you suggested.

  • Jason Scott (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zerth (26112) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @11:46AM (#34187392)

    of textfiles.com is more of a "digital archeologist" than this wanker, because he might have all that stuff you posted to BBSs back in the 70s/80s.

    Plus, he's got an awesome speech on the history of electronic porn, going back to tickertape machines and ham radio(think about that).

    http://laughingsquid.com/jason-scott-on-the-atomic-level-of-porn-at-arse-elektronika-2009/ [laughingsquid.com]

  • This can be daunting. First, how would they store stuff in a way resistant to bit rot? For example, data stored on 5.25" floppies needs to be imaged and stored on other media. It also would need to be stored with plenty of error correction so that in the future, archivists can put in the relatively ancient hard disk and check to see if there is any irreparable damage. What comes to mind would be a CAS system that automatically copies and checks for errors data on older drives when newer drives are put i

    • Maybe something like this [google.com]?
    • by Twinbee (767046)
      Three or four standard hard disk backups is the equivalent to the cube you speak of, but a heck of a lot cheaper.
      • by mlts (1038732) *

        If there is a bad batch, then the archivists would have four dead hard disks on their hands, and no data.

        Optical had the promise of near infinite life. However as time went on, oxidation and bit rot showed that often this would not be true. I am sure there is a way to do burned CDs that have a long archival life, but it would require far better manufacturing tolerances and processes than we have now to ensure that oxygen doesn't seep in along the edge of a layer, or even UV "weld" rings so if oxygen got i

        • by Twinbee (767046)
          Well get the hard disks from difference sources. The more you get, the closer the chance of non-recovery approaches 0. If you want a one in a 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance you can always get another couple of HDs. If even that is too risky, add another couple of HDs to make it another million times less risky.
        • CD-Rs don't erase themselves because of oxygen. They erase for the same reason why my carpets and paintings fade - the dye loses its color.
          .

          >>>MOD files. Who has a player for those these days?

          I do. MOD never died as a format. I also have a HAM viewer for those old por... er, photos. 4000 colors baby. ;-)

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      There needs to be a custodian (or agency) which looks after the data.

      I don't think coming up with some magical storage medium is the answer..

      The current generation stores the data using whatever methods are used for insuring data integrity (multiple copies, raid, checksums, tape.. whatever).

      The next generation should still have means to access data from one generation previous (just as I can still access stuff that was put on floppy disk/tape without too much difficulty.. I would have a hard time accessing

      • >>>I don't think coming up with some magical storage medium is the answer..

        What about books filled with barcodes? Not very efficient for space, but it will still be readable ~5000 years from now and convertible back to databits/audio/video.

        • by Anrego (830717) *

          Sure, but it's useless in that format.

          The idea behind having an archive is it can be browsed periodically. If you can't easily access the data, what is the point.

          • I thought the purpose of an archive was to backup text/audio/video so that if the primary source (DVD) turns to rust, some future ~4000 AD generation can go back to the book and scan it page-by-page to reconstruct it.

            One of the tragic things about Greco-Roman culture is that almost all their music was lost. If someone had simply wrote it down on paper, we'd still have the yellowed sheets to reconstruct the songs, but nobody ever bothered. The same will happen to our culture if we fail to convert our audio

  • We have archive.org .. but it's not great.

    Not saying I could do any better, it's a pretty damn hard problem, and I think resources are a big issue for them.

    And a lot of it isn't there fault. One big problem I see is a _lot_ of really good content is behind registration walls. Massive forums packed with loads of useful information vanishes.. and services like archive.org (and search engines) can't get at it.

    I think a big issue comes with who gets to decide if you can keep data around. Archive.org will retroa

  • Archaeology (Score:4, Funny)

    by The Living Fractal (162153) <banantarr@nOSpaM.hotmail.com> on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @11:49AM (#34187432) Homepage

    valuable evidence from the interweb's early days

    What, you mean high contrast animated gif backgrounds on barely-visible text?

    It's like an Archaeologist is having a conversation with a layman:
    Archaeologist: You see this dirt?
    Layman: Yep, that's nice dirt, what's so special about it?
    Archaeologist: This dirt is FOUR BILLION years old!
    Layman: Wow, that's pretty old! So how does that make it different than this dirt I'm standing on?
    Archaeologist: Well, for one, if you were to grow marijuana with it, you'd be smoking some ancient shit, man.
    Layman: *just stares*
    Archaeologist: Seriously, it's OLD!
    Layman: I'm sure.


    Hmm. I think I need my morning coffee.

  • by Rick Richardson (87058) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @11:52AM (#34187482) Homepage
    Digiboard, Inc. website (http://www.dgii.com) predated the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.  When I started the website, only ~200 sites existed.
    • by GPLDAN (732269)
      That should be Yahoo's Cool Site of the Day.
    • by houghi (78078)

      Even then there existed something called copyright. So do they have explicit permission, because if no explicit exceptions are given, copyright is implied. The words copyright and the sign and year are a nice extra and make it easier to proof, but not needed.

  • finds? (Score:3, Funny)

    by bhcompy (1877290) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @11:52AM (#34187484)
    Smithsonian Digital Archeology Museum exhibits: Hello My Future Girlfriend Mahir All Your Base Supergreg

  • FTA: "In five years' time or so, I doubt websites will exist and I expect the vast majority of sites from the first twenty years of the web to be gone forever," says Jim Boulton, curator of Digital Archaeology.

    Websites won't exist in 5 years? What will be be using, direct neural interfaces?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DigiShaman (671371)

      Apple app that look and feels like websites with a back-end cloud hosting content. Think AOL hell all over again. It' where the old become the new.

      Ya ya, flamebait and all that... Someones gotta throw chum in the water from time to time. :)

  • by Combatso (1793216) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @11:54AM (#34187506)
    I can't wait to visit the "punch the monkey and win!" exhibit.
  • "Uber-trendy" is about right. The only reason a digital project like this requires a physical exhibition is so the people conducting it have somewhere to stare at their own moustaches growing in each other's 20-inch square glasses.

    FTFA: Many of the now-defunct sites will no longer run on modern hardware, so the exhibition's organisers have assembled a veritable PC junkyard of old kit so you can make like it's 1996 again.

    Puh-lease.
  • Oh good more stuff stored in a 'library' no one except researchers will look at.
  • Let the blink tags and "Under Construction" GIF files stay buried!

  • Did apple recently put up a robots.txt to block all robots including the internet archiver?
    http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://apple.com [archive.org]
    It would be sad to miss out on their logos in the future.

    • by iYk6 (1425255)

      Here is the contents of Apple's robots.txt file:
      # robots.txt for http://www.apple.com/ [apple.com]
      User-agent: *
      Disallow:

      That means every robot is allowed to traverse the site. I checked the HTML code for the index of apple.com, which allows for less fine grained robots control, and there is no meta tag to disallow indexing, and the HTTP headers have nothing also.

      It is possible that Apple gives different info, or blocks entirely, to the IA robot user agent or IP addresses.

  • If they don't do justice to B1FF, then why bother? :(

  • Geocities, banner ads and popups. Nothing to see here folks. Want some real content? Look at the old BBS network! ASCII graphics at 300bps R KEWL!
  • Does this also mean they are going to scour around the early days of /b/? That is a little scary
  • by Anonymous Coward

    When did Interweb become a non-sarcastic word?

    I was surprised when I clicked the link and saw that the original article actually used "Interweb" as a serious word, but then I did a quick search and found that there are lots of actual companies that call themselves "Interweb something": Interweb Designs, Interweb Solutions, etc.

    What's next? Luser Ltd.? AOHELLpdesk.com? n00btech Inc.?

    Let us all mourn the death of satire.

  • They'll probably quit after they dig up goatse.cx.
  • At first, I got really excited because I thought there was a TV show about digital archaeology that was revealing new information about the ABC show 'Lost', through interconnected web sites. 'Lost' used "args" (alternate reality games) via hidden web sites, to keep up fan interest between seasons.

    Then I realized I must still be too addicted to 'Lost' even though it's now off the air. I should find something else to do. :-)

  • Damn! I thought I was going to finally find out why they were on the island.
  • Spoken as someone that worked in Whitechapel for ten years, it's somewhere you move away from, not to. Trust me on this, the only people that think it's trendy to live somewhere like that are journalists

  • For those who aren't familiar with Shoreditch, this music video [dailymotion.com] provides a quick primer.
  • Interesting exhibition, though the article's reference to the UK's "first digital archive" is unclear. I'm guessing that they are referring to the UK Web Archive [webarchive.org.uk], which has been accessible for a number of years, but only officially launched at the start of 2010.

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