Why is there so little content in the history of the early Internet history?

In 2005, Alex Tu, who was still a student, came up with the idea of ​​earning $1 million.

At the age of 20, he was thinking about how to pay for a three-year tuition fee for a business science. Alex Tu worried that his overdraft amount would increase rapidly. So he scribbled on the scratch pad and wrote, “How to become a millionaire.”

After 20 minutes, he found the answer he thought.

Alex Tu has created a website called “Million Dollar Homepage.” The site’s model is extremely simple: the above is a 1 million pixel ad slot, sold in 10 x 10 pixels as the basic unit, each pixel is priced at one dollar. Once you buy, they will always belong to you. When the 1 millionth pixel is sold, Alex Chart will become a millionaire. At least, the plan is like this.

The million-dollar homepage was launched on August 26, 2005, after Alex Tu spent 50 euros to register the domain name and set up the home page. The advertiser buys the pixels on the page and provides links, small patterns and a small amount of text information. When the mouse stays on the advertiser’s logo, the text will be displayed, and when clicked, the linked website can be accessed.

Due to word-of-mouth and media attention, just over a month, Alex Tu’s homepage advertising sales exceeded $250,000 (£140,000). In January 2006, the last 1000 pixels were sold at the auction for $38,100. Alex Tu really earned $1 million.

After nearly 15 years of creation, this million dollar homepage is still online. Many customers, including the British “Times”, the travel service website Cheapflights.com, the online portal Yahoo and the two-person rock combination Tenacious D have been advertising for 15 years after completing a one-time payment. The site still has thousands of visitors a day, which can be a very cost-effective investment.

Alex Tu is really a millionaire. He now runs the meditation and mindfulness application Calm. But the home page he created has also become something else: a living museum that records the early Internet era. 15 years may not seem long, but in terms of the Internet, it is like a geological time. On the megapixel homepage, about 40% of the links point to the site are no longer there, and many of the other links point to the brand new domain because the original URL has been sold to the new owner.

The million dollar home page shows that the early decay of the Internet is almost unseen. In the real world, for example, the closure of a local newspaper is often widely reported. But the demise of online sites is usually silent, only when the clicked links point to a blank page, you know that they no longer exist.

About 10 years ago, I spent two years working to maintain a rock music blog and the music channel of AOL, now a large Internet pioneer owned by American phone company Verizon. I have edited or written hundreds of live reviews, music news stories, musician interviews, and checklist articles. “Facebook” and “Twitter” have attracted a large number of users. The smartphone connects us to the network between work and family, and the Internet becomes a day and night activity.

You have every reason to believe that if you need to prove the time spent on it, I just need to search with Google. But you are wrong. In April 2013, AOL suddenly shut down all of its music sites, as well as dozens of editors and hundreds of contributors working together for many years. Except for a small number of articles kept by the Internet Archives, there is very little left. The Internet Archive is a San Francisco-based non-profit foundation founded by computer engineer Brewster Carr in the late 1990s.

There are a number of institutions around the world trying to save some of them before the last traces of the first decade of the human Internet disappear. The Internet Archives is the most famous of them.

Dam Wendy Hall, executive director of the Network Science Institute at the University of Southampton, undoubtedly affirmed the contribution of the Internet Archive. She said that the early content of the Internet “if it is not this archive, there is nothing left. If Brewster Karl does not create an Internet archive and start to save, without any permission from anyone, we have nothing now.”

Dam Wendy said that archives and the National Library have experience in preserving books, newspapers and periodicals, as prints have been around for a long time. But the birth of the Internet and its speed of communication and expression by the public may make the archives and the National Library unexpected. Since then, in many areas, attempts to archive the Internet have been trying to catch up. She said: “All local newspapers published, the British Library have to save a copy.” As the newspapers move from paper to the Internet, the form of archiving has also changed. Are these websites, like the previous ones, an important information resource?

Newspaper filing is also very important. Newspapers are also easily lost when newspapers are closed or merged with other publications. She said: “Most newspapers, I think there will be some sort of classification or archiving. But if you do not properly keep it, this information may also be lost.”

One major problem with trying to archive the Internet is that it is never static. Every minute and every second, online photos, blog posts, videos, news reports and reviews will increase. Although the price of digital storage has fallen dramatically, it still costs money to archive all of this content. “Who is going to pay?” asked Dam Wendy. “We have produced too much more than in the past.”

In the UK, the work of digital preservation fell on the shoulders of the British Library. The library has a British online archive and has been approved to collect website information since 2004. Webb project manager Weber said the problem is much larger than most people think.

He said: “Not only the early content, but most of the Internet content has not been saved.”

“The Internet Archives has been keeping pages of various websites since 1996. It was five years since the first pages were created. The era that was once copied from the Internet has disappeared.” Even the world created in 1991. The first page has disappeared. The pages people see on the World Wide Web Consortium are copies made a year later.

In the first five years after the birth of the Internet, many of the content published in the UK in many cases ended with the .ac.uk designated code domain name, indicating that it was an academic article written by a scholar. Until 1996, as the number of commercial websites began to exceed the number of academic websites, more comprehensive websites began to appear on the Internet.

Every year, the British Library conducts a “Web Site System Search” to store any information published in the UK. “We try to save all the content, but we can only do it once a year. But the storage limit of a large number of websites is set to 500MB, which can cover many small websites, but you can only save a few videos, and soon Will reach the upper limit.” Weber said that the British Library tried to preserve as much information as possible about the events of the Brexit, the 2012 London Olympics and the 100th anniversary of World War I.

Weber said: “I think our perception of losing everything is very low. The digital world is impermanent. We look at the mobile phone. Actually, we haven’t thought about it. The things on the mobile phone have changed. But now people are more and more aware that we may Losing a lot of things.”

But Weber said that institutions like the British Library only have the right to collect publicly viewable content, and a larger number of important historical and cultural data is stored in people’s own files, such as hard drives. But few of us leave this to future generations.

“The British Library maintains a large number of letters between individuals. There are letters between politicians and love letters. These things are really important for some people.”

We think that the content that we publish on social networks will always exist, just need to tap the keyboard to see. But recently, the groundbreaking social networking site MySpace (which was once the most popular site in the US) recently lost about 12 years of music and photos. This suggests that even content stored on the largest website may not be secure.

Even the search giant Google’s service is not immune. Google’s social network Google+, which is trying to compete with Facebook, closed on April 2. But are all users backing up photos and memories posted on Google+?

Weber said: “Putting photos on Facebook is not an archive, because one day, Facebook will no longer exist.” If you have any doubts about the temporary nature of the network, take a few minutes to browse the Million Dollar homepage. It proves how fast our network history will disappear.

There is another side to data loss. Dam Wendy pointed out that not filing a report on a news site may result in a one-sided historical view.