WebCite: An On-Demand Internet Archive

1 minute read


As someone who studies Internet culture, one of my biggest problems is “link rot,” or broken links.  I’m a big fan of the Internet Archive, but they are usually six to eight months behind on even the most popular sites.  I also applaud sites like Wikipedia for providing stable version histories so that I can point to a specific revision of a page.  However, for all other websites, the only option is self-archiving, which is technically difficult and fraught with problems.  What I have found incredibly useful is WebCite, a free webpage archiving service that fills in this gap.

The process is incredibly easy.  You submit a URL with your e-mail and a few optional pieces of metadata, and WebCite will permenantly archive that URL.  For people who have a massive list of links they need to archive (like me), WebCite lets you upload an HTML file – all the anchor tags will be archived.   It does well with text, images are hit and miss, and plugins like flash are not supported.  Also, some websites (like the New York Times and CNN) have Javascript-based advertising redirects or anti-framing measures that make archiving impossible.

Still, it is better than nothing.  My standard citation practice for all sites is to search the Internet Archive first, and then use WebCite if I do not find the page I need.  It also provides a layer of accountability, as the header for each archived page shows the URL and when it was archived.  I’m sure there is some way to fool the site into archiving the wrong URL, but it is better than self-archiving.

WebCite is funded by a consortium headquartered at the University of Toronto, and they plan on making money through grants and institutional and subscriptions.  I’m a bit skeptical of this business model, but I guess it works for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.