29 December 2009

The Lost Decades of the UK Web

This is a national disgrace:

New legal powers to allow the British Library to archive millions of websites are to be fast-tracked by ministers after the Guardian exposed long delays in introducing the measures.

The culture minister, Margaret Hodge, is pressing for the faster introduction of powers to allow six major libraries to copy every free website based in the UK as part of their efforts to record Britain's cultural, scientific and political history.

The Guardian reported in October that senior executives at the British Library and National Library of Scotland (NLS) were dismayed at the government's failure to implement the powers in the six years since they were established by an act of parliament in 2003.

The libraries warned that they had now lost millions of pages recording events such as the MPs' expenses scandal, the release of the Lockerbie bomber and the Iraq war, and would lose millions more, because they were not legally empowered to "harvest" these sites.

So, 20 years after Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the technology, and well over a decade after the Web became a mass medium, and the British Library *still* isn't archiving every Web site?

History - assuming we have one - will judge us harshly for this extraordinary UK failure to preserve the key decades of the quintessential technology of our age. It's like burning down a local digital version of the Library of Alexandria, all over again.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.


Unknown said...

Ah, yes, but the MPs were busy trying to sort out their expenses, weren't they?

Glyn Moody said...

yes, no point keeping that history stuff, eh?

brianlj said...

It's the same attitude as the BBC's was with early programs such as 'A For Andromeda':

Too difficult, too costly and, above all, "it's all ephemeral so why bother?"

Glyn Moody said...

@brianlj - yes, that's true, but this is on an even larger scale...