'The Cobweb: Can the Internet be archived?' By Jill Lepore in The New Yorker

"The average life of a Web page is about a hundred days. Strelkov’s 'We just downed a plane' post lasted barely two hours. It might seem, and it often feels, as though stuff on the Web lasts forever, for better and frequently for worse: the embarrassing photograph, the regretted blog (more usually regrettable not in the way the slaughter of civilians is regrettable but in the way that bad hair is regrettable). No one believes any longer, if anyone ever did, that 'if it’s on the Web it must be true,' but a lot of people do believe that if it’s on the Web it will stay on the Web. Chances are, though, that it actually won’t. In 2006, David Cameron gave a speech in which he said that Google was democratizing the world, because 'making more information available to more people” was providing 'the power for anyone to hold to account those who in the past might have had a monopoly of power.' Seven years later, Britain’s Conservative Party scrubbed from its Web site ten years’ worth of Tory speeches, including that one. Last year, BuzzFeed deleted more than four thousand of its staff writers’ early posts, apparently because, as time passed, they looked stupider and stupider. Social media, public records, junk: in the end, everything goes.

Web pages don’t have to be deliberately deleted to disappear. Sites hosted by corporations tend to die with their hosts. When MySpace, GeoCities, and Friendster were reconfigured or sold, millions of accounts vanished. (Some of those companies may have notified users, but Jason Scott, who started an outfit called Archive Team—its motto is 'We are going to rescue your shit'—says that such notification is usually purely notional: “They were sending e-mail to dead e-mail addresses, saying, ‘Hello, Arthur Dent, your house is going to be crushed.’ ') Facebook has been around for only a decade; it won’t be around forever. Twitter is a rare case: it has arranged to archive all of its tweets at the Library of Congress. In 2010, after the announcement, Andy Borowitz tweeted, 'Library of Congress to acquire entire Twitter archive—will rename itself Museum of Crap.' Not long after that, Borowitz abandoned that Twitter account. You might, one day, be able to find his old tweets at the Library of Congress, but not anytime soon: the Twitter Archive is not yet open for research. Meanwhile, on the Web, if you click on a link to Borowitz’s tweet about the Museum of Crap, you get this message: 'Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!'

The Web dwells in a never-ending present..."

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