Introduction and Purpose

Archived web means the preserved records of Internet-based human communication, primarily as represented in the form of websites. For practical reasons such records cannot be completely exact in covering all interlinked content, or capturing all ongoing changes. The ideal of preserving everything can never be realized completely: National libraries cannot capture and preserve all written content in all forms and versions; some will inevitably be missed. And with web archiving, data amounts, constant changes, and technical issues make preservation even more complex than with printed or other analogous content.

But archived web has become a necessary addition to national libraries and other forms of universal or research libraries; in preserving content and documenting changes to and versions of content.

It is highly important for researchers who want to include studies of archived web to understand the possibilities and limitations of such web records.

This article will by no means offer a complete picture, but it will explain and highlight some basic principles of web archiving, and lay out examples and perspectives on research potentials of archived web. The article aims at explaining without being too technical for the average Internet user. The target group is researchers, students and anyone else interested in getting an overall feel for the perspectives of web archiving.

The article is by Asger Harlung. It was written in 2016, and uses contemporary data for explanations and examples.