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Providing universal access to knowledge

Words by Smiley Team

The internet is still a relatively new phenomenon. By 1993, there were only about 130 active websites, according to the National Science and Media Museum. Then, in 1996, the internet boomed into over 100,000 unique sites, and a picture of what we know as the internet began to take shape.

Today, there are more than 1.7 billion websites, although just over 200 million are active. Take that into account with all the information stored on the seemingly infinite web pages out there might go uncatalogued or forgotten altogether.

In come the Internet Archive.

Founded in 1996, coinciding with the internet boom, the Internet Archive is a non-profit that stores books, old web pages, audio, images, and a handful of other things. 

“It's building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form,” they say. “Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, people with print disabilities, and the general public. Our mission is to provide 'Universal Access to All Knowledge'.”

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To date, the Internet Archive has saved 38 million books and texts, 14 million audio recordings including 240,000 live concerts, 7 million videos, 4 million images, and 790,000 software programs. 

But that pales in comparison to their work in saving and cataloging old web pages. They’ve saved over 625 billion web pages so far, all of which can be accessed through their tool, the Wayback Machine. They provide archiving tools and services to over 800 libraries and institutions that, in turn, help them discover and highlight web pages of note. 

Like an in-person library, the Internet Archive provides all of its resources to the public for free, serving as a place for learning and information. They even offer an OpenLibrary service where you can borrow digitized books.

“Because we are a library, we pay special attention to books,” they say. “Not everyone has access to a public or academic library with a good collection, so to provide universal access we need to provide digital versions of books. We began a program to digitize books in 2005 and today we scan 4,000 books per day in 18 locations around the world.”

Inspired to act?

DONATE: The Internet Archive provides all of its services for free, if interested you can donate.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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