Learning from failure: The case of the disappearing Web site

  • Francine Barone University of Oxford; HRAF, Yale University; CSAC, Canterbury
  • David Zeitlyn Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford
  • Viktor Mayer-Schönberger University of Oxford
Keywords: web preservation, internet archives, digital content, file loss, media anthropology

Abstract

This paper presents the findings of the Gone Dark Project, a joint study between the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University. The project has sought to give substance to frequent reports of Web sites “disappearing” (URLs that generate “404 not found” errors) by tracking and investigating cases of excellent and important Web sites which are no longer accessible online. We first address the rationale and research methods for the project before focusing on several key case studies illustrating some important challenges in Web preservation. Followed by a brief overview of the strengths and weaknesses of current Web archiving practice, the lessons learned from these case studies will inform practical recommendations that might be considered in order to improve the preservation of online content within and beyond existing approaches to Web preservation and archiving.

Author Biographies

Francine Barone, University of Oxford; HRAF, Yale University; CSAC, Canterbury

Francine Barone is a social anthropologist and internet researcher. Her ethnographic research focuses on the socio-cultural impacts of the digital age.

David Zeitlyn, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford

David Zeitlyn is professor of social anthropology at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. His field research has concentrated in Cameroon and he has also worked on archives and been a pioneer of using the internet to disseminate anthropology.

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, University of Oxford

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.

Published
2015-04-27
How to Cite
Barone, F., Zeitlyn, D., & Mayer-Schönberger, V. (2015). Learning from failure: The case of the disappearing Web site. First Monday, 20(5). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v20i5.5852
Section
Articles