Digging into the internet’s past

The internet is showing its age.

People are beginning to realise the internet will still be around when they are not. And they’re asking, “What will it say about me?

More than 50% of Americans (and by proxy, probably a similar number of Australians) have been using the web since 1999. That’s 15 years of our lives archived online. What will happen after 80 years?


The catalyst for today’s post

Now of course, counter to what people say, not everything that has been put on the internet remains forever. Websites close-up. Servers are deleted. The internet swallows obscurity in it’s unfathomable size.

But, some does remain. For example, may I present: my old myspace page (how embarrassing/awesome, myspace.com/brodogs).

While my old statuses and all of my photos are gone (thank god), my profile picture and one of my songs remain. Like an old fossil, lots of detail has been lost, but digital evidence of me still remains.

Despite how most people feel about tweets like, “OMG just had the best breakfast ever, check it out”. Social media is already an incredibly rich source for anthropologic research and it will be more so in the future. The internet is one of the first times where history is not written by the victor or the rich few – but everyone (with basic literacy and internet access. Yes I know, not ‘everyone’, but certainly more than at any point in the past).

Many organisations have realised that the internet is slowly degrading and that it’s preservation is, in a strange way, incredibly important. For example archive.org, has catalogued 378 billion pages, including this blog, and continues to do so everyday. Meanwhile, the Library of Congress has acquired the entire archives of twitter, and continues to catalogue public tweets.

So while the early years of the internet may already be lost, it’s becoming increasingly sure that what gets posted online will in fact remain for as long as our society does.

So here’s my hello to the distant future:

Dear digital archaeologist,

I hope that what you’ve found here was of use. I hope that things are better than they are now – not that life’s overly shit, just progress y’know? And I hope there’s still romance, laughter and skittles. 


Justin Butler

So dear reader, make your shout out…