Matt Simon’s recent article Alexandria 2.0 traces the history of the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine, vast public data repositories established by millionaire Brewster Kahle. The non-profit organization maintains mirror servers in San Francisco and Alexandria, and accepts donations of both money and all forms of content. Its goal is to make as much digital and digitized media freely available as possible, from historical books and movies to websites that have been shut down.
Such an archive is obviously beneficial when older physical media is hard to obtain, but it’s also quite essential to overcome one fundamental problem with the transition to digital publishing: Where does content go when its website disappears? Unlike printed books which can last for centuries without active maintenance, digital content simply vanishes once its last server is shut down or taken offline. Aside from physical archiving, the only way to avoid this sad fate is to establish an organization dedicated to keeping digital content accessible – such as the Internet Archive.