New Media and Error 404

I found the section of Gitelman’s New Media <Body> that played on the idea of error messages to be particularly interesting.  I never quite thought to think of that dreaded Error 404 page as an indication that the internet is a constantly evolving beast of information and people.  To be truthful, I simply scoffed at broken links, decrepit web pages, or sighed in frustration when that picture on Google Images was exactly what I needed for some project, etc.  As Gitelman points out, however, these error messages are not just turn-back-now signs–they’re the authoritative, Big Brother voice of the World Wide Web itself, “which is at once authoritative and impersonal–a system of protocols […] that is seldom acknowledged but always present” (132).  I was pretty astounded by the fact that the average life span of a web page is anywhere from 44-100 days (as stated in the chapter), which really isn’t all that long.  You’d think that people who put the time and effort into learning how to build a website and then actually built it wouldn’t just slack off with their websites…but then I think of all of the hosting sites that provide templates for quick, easy ways to get a website up in less than 30 minutes.  That said, who exactly decides what should be preserved on the web and what shouldn’t?  How many of the hundreds of thousands of websites out there should be preserved for “historical” purposes?  And, as Gitelman points out, websites are constantly evolving.  Does preserving a website mean locking it into one form for forever for historical records, or can it still be altered?  What would happen if a particular website was kept for records and then changed completely by its author, so its original intent is completely erased, and the website is thus irrelevant for the archives?

What do you guys think?  Is the internet only there for viral, popular pieces of information–only to facilitate them as they peak and then fall away in popularity, or should we keep a massive record of every single click on the internet around the world?  It’s certainly an interesting thought, especially when you think about just how many YouTube videos alone people would want to save…when will the Right Click–>Save As ever end?

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