In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Web Archiving

  • Introduction

Communication Web Archiving
Niels Brügger
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 August 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0213


Since the beginning of the 1990s, the World Wide Web—or simply “the web”—has played an increasingly important role in most societies and become an essential pillar in our communicative infrastructure. However, the web is an ephemeral type of media—the average lifetime of a web page is often said to be about two months—which is why it is pivotal that as much of the web as possible is collected and preserved if we want to be able to use it in academic studies, including the writing of contemporary history. For a number of reasons (technical as well as organizational, ethical, and legal), archiving the web is challenging, and the challenges related to collecting, preserving, and making the archived web accessible has an impact on the characteristics of what can be found in a web archive, and on how it can subsequently be used in scholarly research. Therefore, it is important for any scholar who engages in using the archived web as an object of study or as a source to be familiar with the basic topics related to web archiving, as well as with the theoretical and methodological issues related to the scholarly use of the archived web. Since the scholarly use of the archived web is a new field, this bibliography will not only list the most important research literature related to web archiving, strictly speaking, but will also provide references to scholarly work that has been done based on the archived web. In the latter case this includes studies of the history of the web, based on the archived web as a source. In addition, the bibliography will include a brief overview of the most important web archives.

Anthologies and Journals

The first collections of archived web material were established in the mid-1990s. In most cases they were not made available to scholars until around 2000, and in many countries national web archives were not established until the mid- to late 2000s. In addition, some countries still do not have a national web archive (e.g., Belgium, Italy, Poland, and Hungary, in Europe alone). Thus, the use of the archived web in scholarly studies is a relatively recent phenomenon, and the number of publications within the field is limited. Some of the first articles on the subject were published in journals aimed at media and communication studies and design studies, and in journals about information sciences and digital cultural heritage. But these articles were very few, and the new topic of web archiving and web history was not well represented in traditional academic journals. Therefore, anthologies with a specific focus on web history, including the use of the archived web, have played an important role in defining the field of the scholarly use of the archived web.

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