Really nice 2-page spread on Brewster Kahle, “The internet’s librarian,” in this week’s issue of The Economist.
March 7th – 13th 2009
Technology Quarterly insert
The internet’s librarian
Brewster Kahle wants to create a free, online collection of human knowledge. It sounds impossibly idealistic — but he is making progress
It is easy to dismiss Mr. Kahle as an idealist, but he has an impressive record of getting things done.
I have used the Wayback machine — i.e., The Internet Archive — to find needed documents that were not otherwise available online anymore. And apparently I’m not the only one:
The most famous part of the archive is the Wayback Machine (its name inspired by the WABAC machine in the 50-year-old television cartoon featuring Rocky and Bullwinkle). This online attic of digital memorabilia stores copies of internet sites . . . Paul Courant, the dean of libraries at the University of Michigan, equates what the archive does for the internet with what the British Museum did for the British empire. . . . The Wayback Machine “gives us access to what people were producing at different points in time,” he says. Evidentially this is of more than just academic interest: the site gets 500 page requests per second.
The article also discusses “Mr. Kahle’s wider goal:
to build the world’s largest digital library. He has recruited 135 libraries worldwide to openlibrary.org, the aim of which is to create a catalogue of every book ever published, with links to its full text where available. . . .
The article notes that “this activist for online privacy is also a staunch supporter of openness” and details efforts and litigation Mr. Kahle has been involved with.