An archive of all the websites from the UK has gone live, but those wanting to browse the records will have to visit a library.
Following nearly 10 years of negotiations, Britain’s official internet archive has launched, but at present, access is only granted via terminals based in each of the UK’s six biggest academic libraries.
The British Library has “harvested” the UK’s web domain in its entirety in a bid to create a comprehensive database of current news and events, and make a record of the nation’s fledgling collection of intellectual and cultural works on the net.
Web pages, e-books and blogs have been gathered in their billions, along with several centuries’ worth of books, magazines and articles from news suppliers.
It has been suggested that the collection could eventually contain copies of all the Facebook profiles and Tweets in the UK web domain, giving future generations a much deeper insight into how we live today than previously thought possible.
Restrictions arising from the 2003 Legal Deposit Libraries Act mean that the internet archive has to be treated the same as printed archives have been over the years, and will only accessible in a specified reading room at libraries designated as legal deposits.
In academic libraries, since reading space is limited and books are often few and precious, not many people are actually granted readers’ permits.
The libraries set to house the full archive are the British Library, Cambridge University Library, National Library of Scotland, Trinity College Library Dublin, the Bodleian Libraries and the National Library of Wales.