May 4, 2008

Here and Gone

by Nick Montfort · , 7:33 am

Here’s something that’s new on the Web: Planet Interactive Fiction, an aggregration of blog posts (from Grand Text Auto among other fine places) about IF. Christopher Armstrong has set this up and, as you can see from a visit, it’s buzzing with useful IF information and discussion.

Now, since we often mention things that are new, I will supplement this happy news with a recollection of some things that are gone, in the sense of no longer on the Web with original URLs defunct: Hotwired, [Internet Archive] an early commercial site that may have been the first sizable Web magazine and which was responsible for the invention of the banner ad. The Spot, [Internet Archive] a Web soap that ran through 1997, is once again totally gone, after a puzzling relaunch which ran from 2004 to (it seems) no later than 2006. The academic journal fineArt Forum [Internet Archive] is gone – their URL simply redirects to the MIssissippi State University page. That journal published the Digital Arts and Culture 2003 proceedings, which are now gone with it. We’ve come to expect that academic journals, however unglamorous they may be, will be around for a while, but when they are digital and rely on continued hosting, universities can just drop them to let them sizzle into the depths if they want.

By the way, it’s great that the Internet Archive has many (not all) of the materials from these sites still available, even if not searchable, even if available at a very different speed from the usual Web. Some of these sites were updated rapidly; some of these and others were no doubt not spidered completely. Those interested in the Web’s history should certainly be grateful for what is there and remains accessible online. Still, the Internet Archive only “solves the problem” of access to the Web’s past to the extent that building one library “solves the problem” of access to and preservation of books. (Historically, it hasn’t.) We need a diversity of efforts with different priorities, policies, and technologies, inspired by the good work the Internet Archive has done but not simply an imitation or mirror of this one successful effort.