Like virtually all worthwhile life ventures nowadays, libraries have recently undergone a very rapid, vast evolution from yesteryear's predecessors. Once upon a time, stick-and-brick library patrons who dared ask about access to the most recent, accurate information regarding public records or other subject matter of universally vital import received nothing but blank stares.
Fortunately for such ever-inquiring minds, ever-advancing modern technologies have combined with the Internet's advent and never-ending enhanced sophistry to provide the perfect solution to their common problem and collective frustrations. Even better, there portends to be no end in sight. Below is but a brief overview of what may be among the best of all worlds on the entire World Wide Web.
Enter the Internet Archive
Founded in 1996 by computer engineer and Internet entrepreneur Brewster Kahle, the Internet Archive is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) digital library based on San Francisco, CA. Its stated mission is promoting "universal access to all knowledge." Toward its fulfillment, the library functions as a free web-archiving subscription service that enables users to customize any desired web content with cultural heritage preservation motivations.
Details about data, dollars and cents
The Library maintains a gargantuan publicly accessible collection of digitized content in all known possible format and subject matters. Just a few exemplars are websites, software apps, videos, gaming apps, moving images, movies, upwards of 3 million public domain books. Per published report as of May 2014, the Archive's aggregate collections volume exceeded 15 petabytes. Besides its primary archival purpose, the Library is an advocacy organization for a free and open Internet.
Archive's annual budget is reportedly around $10 million and derives revenue from a wide variety of sources. Chief among these include private donations, grants, strategic partnerships, web-crawling services and the Kahle-Austin Foundation. The Archive is an active institutional member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium and official recognized as library by the State of California.
Other Internet Archive objectives and service offerings
Web-archiving goes Way Back
Internet Archive has capitalized on the popular term "WABAC Machine," first coined during an old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon by dubbing its web-archiving service as "the Wayback Machine. That favorite feature provides a portal to access and search other archives all over the Web. Conceived as a brainchild via joint efforts with Alexa Internet, the Wayback Machine was born shortly after construction of a 3D index that enabled archived web content browsing.
Ever since, the Wayback Machine has grown by progressively greater quantum leaps and bounds and gone a long way to become the repository for several million websites and their respective associated content. Users may freely access and view previous versions of desired websites, capture original source codes from sites that are not directly accessible and even visit nonexistent defunct websites.
In October of 2013, a "Save Page Now" archiving function was integrated to enable users to target URLSs that instantly become Wayback Machine's newest additions.
Only Web-based Open Library
Another popular Archive initiative is the Open Library, a free open source software project with freely available source code. Launched with a main aim to compile a web database for every book ever published, it's apparently served its purpose quite well to this point. At last reported count, Open Library held 23 million book catalog records.
Moreover, the Open Library strives to meet a major secondary goal of providing a Web accessible public library. Towards that end, it has compiled a collection of an estimated 1.6 million full-length public domain books. Each volume is fully readable, downloadable, and full-text searchable.
In addition, Open Library users may access an eBook lending program for more than 250,000 recent books not in the public domain. That widely appreciated attribute was made possible by strategic partnerships with more than 1,000 libraries in six different nations.
Archive Lending Library
Internet Archive's Lending Library is a novel online-only book-lending model that loans digital eBooks via archive.org. The present IT infrastructure that underlies the Lending Library is Adobe Content Server. That technology utilizes digital rights management to ensure eBook visibility to just one user at a time. Open Library holds more than 12,000 titles.
Vintage software archival
Widely reputed as the world's single biggest historical software collection that encompasses half a century of computer history with terabytes of various computer publications, video games, FTP websites and shareware, Internet Archive established a specialized sub archive for what it describes as "vintage software " for preservation purposes.
Advocating for Google Books Alternative
Internet Archive holds active membership in Open Book Alliance, among the most vocal critics of the infamous Google Book Settlement. As such, the Archive advocates viable alternative digital library book projects.
Great Room filled with many good works
The Internet Archive's Great Room is a collection of more than 100 ceramic figures by famous sculptor Nula Creed that purportedly represent Archive employees. Commissioned by founder Brewster Kahle, the Great Room is an ongoing work-in-progress.
Closing observations and commentary on Archive Library
This writer gleaned an extremely favorable first impression of Internet Archive's bold pioneering leadership in so many areas and activities. .Besides offering a long overdue solution for centralized access to online archives on a Web wide basis, the Archive serves as a valuable liaison between Internet surfers and various web-based operations. Not to go without very honorable mention is the Archive's outspoken, zealous advocacy that functionally equates to a voice for true public interests - not just lip service paid to appease political and financial backers.
Those who've been desperately seeking a mode of seamless access to valuable historical data, easy cultural heritage preservation, entertainment, helpful research sources or curiosity seekers are strongly urged to pay Internet Archive's virtual venue a visit. That small investment of time will assuredly reap a huge harvest of handsome dividends - in more ways than most human minds have even the least capacity to envision, dream of, or ever imagine in several million millennia!