The granddaddy of internet public domain archives, Archive.org, has recently been upping its game after years in more or less the same venerable, trusty, but slightly fusty format. As announced, “the new version of the archive.org site has been evolving over the past 6 months in response to the feedback we’ve received from thousands of our awesome users.” And as far as I can see at least, the quality of some of its scans and other archived material is being progressively upgraded too.
The key reasons for the upgrade are interesting in themselves. According to Archive.org, “35% of our ~3 million daily users are on mobile/tablet devices, and the classic site is not easy to use on small formats.” Furthermore,”the new tools we want to offer our users would be difficult to implement in the old site architecture” and The classic site was built a long time ago, using methods that are outdated. Finding programmers who have the skills to work in that environment is becoming increasingly difficult.”
Much of this new push probably stems from a realization of the consequences of Archive.org’s transition from its initial aims c.1996 of “being an archive OF the Internet” to being “an archive ON the internet.” In other words, the internet itself has grown beyond the capacities of any one platform to archive it. Instead, Archive.org is “creating new tools to help every media-based community build their own collections on a long term platform that is available to the entire world for free.”
As for the new design and new interface, this encapsulates the progression from the 9,000 registered users of the Wayback Machine in 2002 to today’s c. 2 million registered users, and some 2.5 million daily users, some 20-30 percent them on mobile devices. The new design already feels both slicker and more graphic, closer to Google’s latest interface ideas in Material Design. Not everyone may like it in preference to the old version, but it definitely seems to get the job done.
All good luck to Archive.org, then, as it continues to develop in step with the internet itself – or sometimes plays catchup.