Nothing lasts forever

There’s an old saying that nothing gets deleted on the internet. They’re words that terrify everyone from the student to the politician – and they’re a lie.

Despite the obvious feeling that things on the internet are better preserved than ever, we are actually in the process of losing much of our shared history because of apathy.

That was a realisation that hit many last week when the BBC said it would be deleting its much-loved recipes – and then promised that it would store them in an archive so people could get to them in the future. It should be a reminder that nothing lasts forever, even if it’s digital.

Some people recommend heading to the Internet Archive – a place that stores the internet. The Internet Archive is based in San Francisco and exists to collect the digital history that we are leaving behind, in an attempt to provide “universal access to all knowledge”.

It operates tools like the Wayback Machine – a tool that sifts through the internet and stores it, so earlier or deleted versions of webpages can be accessed and checked again. It is a valuable way of keeping around information about our internet lives but it only exists because so much of it would disappear otherwise.

Much of the history of the web doesn’t reside with the people but with the person who owns it and pays for it to be hosted online. For all of the excitement about the people power of the web, they are actually a lot less public than books – all it takes to get rid of it is one mouse click.

Many of those mostly closely associated with the internet have warned it is a temporary thing – and the best thing to do might be to keep hard copies of really important information in a way that now seems old fashioned.

Last year Vincent Cerf – sometimes called the father of the internet – warned we were in danger of living through a “digital dark age” where the records of our lives might be inaccessible to future historians.

As people like Vint Cerf has warned, print it out. Recipe books might be dusty, big and inefficient when compared to the internet but they’re also impossible to delete.

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