Friday, September 21, 2018
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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Living in the era of Wayback Machine

The consultative committee that drafted a proposed federal constitution is an amusing lot. “We have to follow protocol; we have to give a copy first to the President,” the committee members say, explaining why the public cannot see the official copy just yet.

But many of us have already read it, and read it in toto. In this day and age of time-traveling digital marvels, many who could not keep up with the fast pace of progress are turning Jurassic. The draft constitution, for instance, stored in computers for sure, could have been possibly shared with other devices through the use of up-to-date applications. No need for hackers to do that.

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Perhaps the committee members should have first been given directions on how to navigate themselves in the cyberuniverse before contemplating on granting vast powers to the presidency.

Today’s virtual is not just chimera — it is real, and it can underwrite reality right from our fingertips. Such is the case, for instance, of archiving. When we archive, we store material in a storage-capable setting. But that method of archiving became traditional at the threshold of the computer age, which introduced the transfer of data to another medium such as a magnetic tape external to the computer system that had a lesser storage capacity to begin with.

It has been almost 18 years since internet archiving, an even further step from traditional archiving, became a part of our here and now. In October 2001, Brewster Kahle, internet activist and resolute advocate of universal access to all knowledge, launched what is now known as Wayback Machine.

It took about five years to develop the process of internet archiving. By designing a software to capture internet content that otherwise would be lost whenever a website is closed or lost, Kahle eventually perfected the process by putting it into actual test — that is, allowing researchers and scientists to access the database.

Kahle’s team later progressed into software that can “crawl” the web and download all publicly accessible World Wide Web pages. Where the web publisher restricts data from public accessibility, crawling ensures continued access. Now, many web creators voluntarily preserve their own digital content, hence the “archives” section that we see in many websites.

The impressive National Archives and Records Administration of the United States employs its own crawlers to capture the global web. It is an amazing form of archiving in an age that gives singular momentum to 21st-century knowledge production. Today, there is such an animal as Common Crawl, a nonprofit organization that crawls the web, freely providing its archive to the public.

Since Wayback Machine’s public debut in 2001 at the University of California in Berkeley, it has migrated its database to more sophisticated digital methods. In January 2013, Wayback announced a groundbreaking database milestone of 240 billion URLs or uniform resource locators, the technical name for a web address. That staggering number means Wayback has captured a huge chunk of the digital universe. Over half a million people a day queried the database over a thousand times a second. That was in 2013. One can imagine the numbers in 2018.

Wayback’s original vision of universal access to all knowledge was further enhanced when it unveiled its “Save a Page” feature. This allows any ordinary internet user to archive the contents of a URL.

Knowledge production is a formidable idea today, such that those who conceal information of otherwise important value to the public good are the odd men out. That includes dragon tattoos.

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As you can see, our Senate president, Tito Sotto, must still be living in the Stone Age. By asking Inquirer.net to take down its articles on the Pepsi Paloma rape case that implicated his brother Vic and coentertainer Joey de Leon, a thousand Pepsi Paloma articles bloomed on the web and are here to stay. Hats off, Brewster Kahle!

Will someone please help Sotto save himself before he feigns managing the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines?

antonmonta@gmail.com

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TAGS: Antonio Montalvan II, Brewster Kahle, charter change, Common Crawl, federalism, internet archiving, Kris-Crossing Mindanao, National Archives and Records Administration, Pepsi Paloma, tito sotto, Vicente Sotto III, Wayback Machine
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