Learning from failure: The case of the disappearing Web site
Keywords:web preservation, internet archives, digital content, file loss, media anthropology
This paper presents the findings of the Gone Dark Project, a joint study between the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University. The project has sought to give substance to frequent reports of Web sites “disappearing” (URLs that generate “404 not found” errors) by tracking and investigating cases of excellent and important Web sites which are no longer accessible online. We first address the rationale and research methods for the project before focusing on several key case studies illustrating some important challenges in Web preservation. Followed by a brief overview of the strengths and weaknesses of current Web archiving practice, the lessons learned from these case studies will inform practical recommendations that might be considered in order to improve the preservation of online content within and beyond existing approaches to Web preservation and archiving.
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