How Long Does an Internet Last?

I’ve been wondering about permanence on the internet.  A book (which, fundamentally, can contain much of the same information — text and pictures) can last a long, long time.  Even if you lose one copy of a book, multiple copies will have been printed, so that bit of information or knowledge is preserved.

Is the internet the same way?  It concerns me that a personal website can just go poof and disappear, not really accessible ever again.  You may then never be able to link to that one blog post, or refer someone to that one webcomic.  Sure, a corporate or government website will probably exist forever — but the content can change without notice and without record.

Yes, yes, I know there’s a record somewhere, and I thank Google for backing up the entire internet in it’s cache history — but it’s not the same sort of accessibility or permanence as looking up a previous edition of a book.

Even though I like the things, I’m not sure I entirely trust bits and electrons over ink and paper.  Redundancy puts me at ease here.  This makes me think: maybe I should buy more print books of the webcomics I read.  Y’know, for posterity.

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3 Responses to “How Long Does an Internet Last?”

  1. Nate Says:

    I’ve heard it said that Anthropology that targets our current culture has been made practically obsolete by various archival services of the internet; now in order to find out what our culture thought of any particular topic in 2007, you just look it up in the Wikipedia history. It’s a permanent record of evolving consensus… until the internet goes down, of course. Frankly, nothing short of total calamity will bring down the net, but if that’s the kind of thing you like to plan for (I know I do!), I think a good investment would be buying a hardcopy snapshot of wikipedia and putting it in an airtight, lead-lined box.

  2. Adam Says:

    Have you seen http://www.archive.org.

    put a URL into the WAYBACK machine. and see the history unfold.

    You are correct that the content available on the internet is fairly ephemeral, but there are people trying to catalog the entire history of every piece of data that goes up on the web.

  3. oneirichaberdasher Says:

    Okay, that’s pretty cool. There is some irony associated with the fact that this arcive is, itself, a website.

    Also, excellent use of “ephemeral.”

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