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Internet Archive
Internet Archive logo and wordmark.svg
Type501(c)(3) non-profit
Founded1996 (1996)
HeadquartersRichmond District
San Francisco, CA
United States
ChairmanBrewster Kahle
ServicesArchive-It, Open Library, Wayback Machine (since 2001), Netlabels, NASA Images, Prelinger Archives
Slogan(s)Universal access to all knowledge
Alexa rankpositive decrease 171 (November 2014)[1]
Type of siteDigital library
Available inEnglish
Since 2009, headquarters have been at 300 Funston Avenue in San Francisco, a former Christian Science Church.
Mirror of the Internet Archive in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina

The Internet Archive is a San Francisco-based non-profit digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge".[2][3] It provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly three million public-domain books. As of October 2012, its collection topped 10 petabytes.[4][5] In addition to its archiving function, the Archive is an activist organization, advocating for a free and open Internet.

The Internet Archive allows the public to upload and download digital material to its data cluster, but the bulk of its data is collected automatically by its web crawlers, which work to preserve as much of the public web as possible. Its web archive, The Wayback Machine, contains over 150 billion web captures.[6][7] The Archive also oversees one of the world's largest book digitization projects.

Founded by Brewster Kahle in 1996, the Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit operating in the United States. It has an annual budget of $10 million, derived from a variety of sources: revenue from its Web crawling services, various partnerships, grants, donations, and the Kahle-Austin Foundation.[8] Its headquarters are in San Francisco, California, where about 30 of its 200 employees work. Most of its staff work in its book-scanning centers. The Archive has data centers in three Californian cities, San Francisco, Redwood City, and Richmond. Its collection is mirrored for stability and endurance at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt.[9]

The Archive is a member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium.[10] This non-profit digital library was officially designated as a library by the State of California in 2007.[11]


From 1996 to 2009, headquarters were in the Presidio of San Francisco, a former U.S. military base.

Brewster Kahle founded the Archive in 1996 at the same time that he began the for-profit web crawling company Alexa Internet. Kahle was motivated to found the Archive after a macramé hobby website of his was lost when its host unexpectedly filed for bankruptcy. In 1996, The Internet Archive had begun to archive and preserve the World Wide Web. The archived content wasn't available until 2001, when it developed the Wayback Machine. In late 1999, the Archive expanded its collections beyond the Web archive, beginning with the Prelinger Archives. Now the Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software. It hosts a number of other projects: the NASA Images Archive, the contract crawling service Archive-It, and the wiki-editable library catalog and book information site Open Library. Recently, the Archive has begun working to provide specialized services relating to the information access needs of the print-disabled; publicly accessible books were made available in a protected Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) format.[12]

According to its website:

Most societies place importance on preserving artifacts of their culture and heritage. Without such artifacts, civilization has no memory and no mechanism to learn from its successes and failures. Our culture now produces more and more artifacts in digital form. The Archive's mission is to help preserve those artifacts and create an Internet library for researchers, historians, and scholars.

In August 2012, the Archive announced[13] that it has added BitTorrent to its file download options for over 1.3 million existing files, and all newly uploaded files.[14][15] This method is the fastest means of downloading media from the Archive, as files are served from two Archive data centers, in addition to other torrent clients which have downloaded and continue to serve the files.[14][16]

On November 6, 2013, the Internet Archive's headquarters in San Francisco's Richmond District caught fire, destroying equipment and damaging some nearby apartments.[17] According to the Archive, it lost:[18]

  • a side-building housing one of 30 of its scanning centers
  • cameras, lights, and scanning equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars
  • "maybe 20 boxes of books and film, some irreplaceable, most already digitized, and some replaceable"

The non-profit Archive sought donations to cover the estimated $600,000 in damages.[19]

World Wide Web archiving

Wayback Machine

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Wayback Machine logo, used since 1996
A purchase of additional storage at the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive has capitalized on the popular use of the term "WABAC Machine" from a segment of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon, and uses the name "Wayback Machine" for its service that allows archives of the World Wide Web to be searched and accessed.[20] This service allows users to view archived web pages. The Wayback Machine was created as a joint effort between Alexa Internet and the Internet Archive when a three-dimensional index was built to allow for the browsing of archived web content.[21] Millions of websites and their associated data (images, source code, documents, etc.) are saved in a gigantic database. The service can be used to see what previous versions of websites used to look like, to grab original source code from websites that may no longer be directly available, or to visit websites that no longer even exist. The Internet Archive Terms of Use specify that users of the Wayback Machine are not to download data from the collection. Not all websites are available because many website owners choose to exclude their sites. As with all sites based on data from web crawlers, the Internet Archive misses large areas of the web for a variety of other reasons. International biases have also been found in its coverage, although this does not seem to be the result of a deliberate policy.[22]

The use of the term "Wayback Machine" in the context of the Internet Archive has become so common that "Wayback Machine" and "Internet Archive" are almost synonymous. This usage occurs in popular culture, e.g., in the television show Law and Order: Criminal Intent ("Legacy", first run August 3, 2008), an extra playing a computer tech uses the "Wayback Machine" to find an archive of a student's Facebook style website. Snapshots usually take at least 6–18 months to be added.

The Save Page Now archiving feature was made available in October 2013,[23] accessible on the lower right of the Wayback Machine's main page.[24] Once a target URL is entered and saved, if the target website permits access via robots.txt, the web page will become part of the Wayback Machine.[23]

Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Number of all archived pages
40[25] 85[26] 85[27] 85[28] 150[29] 150[30] 150[31] 150[32] 373[33] 400[34]


Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive talks about archiving operations

Created in early 2006, Archive-It[35] is a web archiving subscription service that allows institutions and individuals to build and preserve collections of digital content and create digital archives. Archive-It allows the user the option to customize their capture or exclusion of web content they want to preserve for cultural heritage reasons. Through a web application, Archive-It partners can harvest, catalog, manage, browse, search and view their archived collections. In terms of accessibility, the archived websites are full text searchable within seven days of capture.[36] Content collected through Archive-It is captured and stored as a WARC file. A primary and back-up copy is stored at the Internet Archive data centers. A copy of the WARC file can be given to subscribing partner institutions for geo-redundant preservation and storage purposes to their best practice standards.[37] The data captured through Archive-It is periodically indexed into the Internet Archive's general archive.

As of March 2014, Archive-It had over 275 partner institutions in 46 U.S. states and 16 countries that have captured over 7.4 billion URLs for over 2,444 public collections. Archive-It partners are universities and college libraries, state archives, federal institutions, museums, law libraries and cultural organizations, including the Electronic Literature Organization, North Carolina State Archives and Library, Stanford University, Columbia University, American University in Cairo, Georgetown Law Library and many others.

Books collections

Text collection

Internet Archive "Scribe" book scanning workstation
An Internet Archive in-house scan ongoing

The Internet Archive Text Archive collection includes digitized books and special collections from various libraries and cultural heritage institutions from around the world.

The Internet Archive operates 33 scanning centers in five countries, digitizing about 1,000 books a day for a total of over 2 million books,[38] financially supported by libraries and foundations.[39] As of July 2013, the collection included 4.4 million books with over 15 million downloads per month.[38] As of November 2008, when there were about 1 million texts, the entire collection was over 0.5 petabytes, which includes raw camera images, cropped and skewed images, PDFs, and raw OCR data.[40]

Between about 2006 and 2008 Microsoft Corporation had a special relationship with Internet Archive texts through its Live Search Books project, scanning over 300,000 books which were contributed to the collection, as well as financial support and scanning equipment. On May 23, 2008, Microsoft announced it would be ending the Live Book Search project and no longer scanning books.[41] Microsoft made its scanned books available without contractual restriction and donated its scanning equipment to its former partners.[41]

Around October 2007, Archive users began uploading public domain books from Google Book Search.[42] As of November 2013 there were over 900,000 Google-digitized books in the Archive's collection:[43] the books are identical to the copies found on Google, except without the Google watermarks, and are available for unrestricted use and download.[44] Brewster Kahle revealed in 2013 that this archival effort was coordinated by Aaron Swartz, who with a "bunch of friends" downloaded the public domain books from Google slow enough and from enough computers to stay within Google's restrictions. They did this to ensure public access to the public domain. The Archive ensured the items were attributed and linked back to Google, which never complained, while libraries "grumbled". According to Kahle, this is an example of Swartz's "genius" to work on what could give the most to the public good for million people; another example was PACER.[45]

In fact, besides books, the Archive offers free and anonymous public access to more than four millions court opinions, legal briefs, or exhibits uploaded from the United States Federal Courts' PACER electronic document system via the RECAP web browser plugin. All of these documents are in the public domain, but had been kept from the public behind a federal court paywall. On the Archive, they've been accessed by over 6 million people.[45]

Number of texts for each language

Number of all texts
(March 30, 2014)
Language English French German Spanish Russian Arabic Urdu Portuguese Chinese Japanese Dutch
Number of texts
(January 21, 2014)
4,284,928[47] 293,393[48] 222,689[49] 114,906[50] 17,487[51] 30,603[52] 7,031[53] 14,643[54] 81,311[55] 7,410[56] 19,076[57]

Number of texts for each decade

Decade 1800-1809 1810-1819 1820-1829 1830-1839 1840-1849 1850-1859 1860-1869 1870-1879 1880-1889 1890-1899
Number of texts
(January 24, 2014)
31,024[58] 41,619[59] 62,856[60] 82,676[61] 99,891[62] 140,260[63] 163,908[64] 182,258[65] 248,371[66] 320,526[67]
Decade 1900-1909 1910-1919 1920-1929 1930-1939 1940-1949 1950–1959 1960-1969 1970-1979 1980-1989 1990-1999 2000-2009 2010s (decade)
Number of texts
(January 24, 2014)
447,346[68] 408,317[69] 156,345[70] 49,279[71] 52,620[72] 55,192[73] 85,777[74] 88,287[75] 94,251[76] 170,330[77] 375,553[78] 400,401[79]

Open Library

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The Open Library is another project of the Internet Archive. The site seeks to include a web database for every book ever published: it holds 23 million catalog records of books. It also seeks to be a web-accessible public library: it contains the full texts of about 1,600,000 public domain books (out of the over five million from the main texts collection), which are fully readable, downloadable[80][81] and full-text searchable;[82] it offers access to an e-book lending program for over 250,000 recent books not in the public domain, in partnership with over 1,000 library partners from 6 countries[38][83] (after getting a "library card", that is a free registration on the website).

Open Library is a free/open source software project, with its source code freely available on the Open Library site.

Internet Archive Lending Library

The Internet Archive Lending Library is a digital library of ebooks at . This is a new system to loan digital books over the Internet. The current technology behind this loaning system is Adobe Content Server which uses digital rights management to ensure only one person can see a particular book at one time. This collection contains over 12,000 items.[84]

Media collections

Media reader
Microfilms at the Internet Archive
Videocassettes at the Internet Archive

In addition to web archives, the Internet Archive maintains extensive collections of digital media that are attested by the uploader to be in the public domain in the United States or licensed under a license that allows redistribution, such as Creative Commons licenses. Media are organized into collections by media type (moving images, audio, text, etc.), and into sub-collections by various criteria. Each of the main collections includes a "Community" sub-collection (formerly named "Open Source") where general contributions by the public are stored.

Moving image collection

The Internet Archive holds a collection of approximately 3,863 feature films.[85] Additionally, the Internet Archive's Moving Image collection includes: newsreels, classic cartoons, pro- and anti-war propaganda, The Video Cellar Collection, Skip Elsheimer's "A.V. Geeks" collection, and ephemeral material from Prelinger Archives, such as advertising, educational, and industrial films and amateur and home movie collections.

Subcategories of this collection include:

  • IA's Brick Films collection, which contains stop-motion animation filmed with Lego bricks, some of which are "remakes" of feature films.
  • IA's Election 2004 collection, a non-partisan public resource for sharing video materials related to the 2004 United States Presidential Election.
  • IA's FedFlix collection, Joint Venture NTIS-1832 between the National Technical Information Service and Public.Resource.Org that features "the best movies of the United States Government, from training films to history, from our national parks to the U.S. Fire Academy and the Postal Inspectors"[86]
  • IA's Independent News collection, which includes sub-collections such as the Internet Archive's World At War competition from 2001, in which contestants created short films demonstrating "why access to history matters". Among their most-downloaded video files are eyewitness recordings of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.
  • IA's September 11th Television Archive, which contains archival footage from the world's major television networks of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as they unfolded on live television.[87]

Machinima archive

One of the sub-collections of the Internet Archive's Video Archive is the Machinima Archive. This small section hosts many Machinima videos (see Machinima: Virtual Filmmaking). Machinima is a digital artform in which computer games, game engines or software engine are used in a sandbox mode like mode to create motion pictures, recreate plays or even publish presentations/keynotes. The archive collects a range of Machinima films from internet publishers such as Rooster Teeth and as well as independent producers. The sub collection is a collaborative effort between the Internet Archive, the How They Got Game research project at Stanford University, the Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences and[88]

TV News Search & Borrow

TV tuners at the Internet Archive

In September 2012, the Internet Archive launched the TV News Search & Borrow service for searching U.S. national news programs.[89] The service is built on closed captioning transcripts and allows user to search and stream 30-second video clips. Upon launch, the service contained "350,000 news programs collected over 3 years from national U.S. networks and stations in San Francisco and Washington D.C."[90] According to Kahle, the service was inspired by the Vanderbilt Television News Archive, a similar library of televised network news programs.[91] In contrast to Vanderbilt, which limits access to streaming video to individuals associated with subscribing colleges and universities, the TV News Search & Borrow allows open access to its streaming video clips.

In 2013, the Archive received an additional donation of "approximately 40,000 well-organized tapes," from the estate of a Philadelphia woman, Marion Stokes. Stokes "had recorded more than 35 years of TV news in Philadelphia and Boston with her VHS and Betamax machines."[92]

Audio collection

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The Audio Archive includes music, audio books, news broadcasts, old time radio shows and a wide variety of other audio files. There are over 200,000 free digital recordings in the collection. The subcollections include audio books and poetry, podcasts, non-English audio and many others.[93]

The Live Music Archive sub-collection includes over 100,000 concert recordings from independent artists, as well as more established artists and musical ensembles with permissive rules about recording their concerts such as the Grateful Dead, and more recently, The Smashing Pumpkins. Also, Jordan Zevon has allowed Internet Archive to host a definitive collection of his father Warren Zevon concert recordings. The catalog ranges from 1976–2001 and contains 1,137 free songs.[94]


The Archive has a collection of freely distributable music that is streamed and available for download via its Netlabels service. The music in this collection generally have Creative Commons-license catalogs of virtual record labels.[95][96]

NASA Images

The NASA Images archive was created through a Space Act Agreement between the Internet Archive and NASA to bring public access to NASA's image, video, and audio collections in a single, searchable resource. The IA NASA Images team worked closely with all of the NASA centers to keep adding to the ever-growing collection.[97] The site launched in July 2008 and had more than 100,000 items online at the end of its hosting in 2012.

Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources is a digital collection at This collection contains hundreds of free courses, video lectures, and supplemental materials from universities in the United States and China. The contributors of this collection are ArsDigita University, Hewlett Foundation, MIT, Monterey Institute and Naropa University.[98]

Other services and endeavors

Physical media

Example of other "archived" item

Voicing a strong reaction to the idea of books simply being thrown away, and inspired by the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Kahle now envisions collecting one copy of every book ever published. "We're not going to get there, but that's our goal", he said. Alongside the books, Kahle plans to store the Internet Archive's old servers, which were replaced in 2010.[99]


The Internet Archive has "the largest collection of historical software online in the world", spanning 50 years of computer history in terabytes of computer magazines and journals, books, shareware discs, FTP websites, video games, etc.[100] The Internet Archive has created an archive of what it describes as "vintage software", as a way to preserve them.[101]

The project advocated for an exemption from the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act to permit them to bypass copy protection, which was approved in 2003 for a period of three years.[102] The Archive does not offer the software for download, as the exemption is solely "for the purpose of preservation or archival reproduction of published digital works by a library or archive."[103] The exemption was renewed in 2006, and in 2009 was indefinitely extended pending further rulemakings.[104] The Library reiterated the exemption, as a "Final Rule" with no expiration date, in 2010.[105]

In 2013 the Internet Archive began to provide abandonware video games browser-playable via MESS, for instance the Atari 2600 game E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.[106] Since 23 December 2014 the Internet Archive presents via a browser based DOSBox emulation thousands of DOS/PC games[107][108][109][110] for "scholarship and research purposes only".[111]

Controversies and legal disputes

The main hall of the current headquarters

Omni magazine

In a story at his Web site headed "What the heck is going on at Internet Archive?", author Steven Saylor noted, “Sometime in 2012, the entire run of Omni magazine was uploaded (and made available for download) at Internet Archive...Since those old issues must contain hundreds of works still under copyright by numerous contributors, how is this legal?"[112] At least one contributor to the magazine, author Steve Perry, has publicly complained that he never gave permission for his work to be uploaded ("they didn't say a word in my direction"),[113] and it has been noted that all issues containing the work of Harlan Ellison have apparently been taken down.[114] Glenn Fleishman, investigating the question "Who Owns Omni?", writes that "Almost all of the authors, photographers, and artists whose work appeared in the magazine had signed contracts that granted only short-term rights....[No one] could simply reprint or post the content from older issues."[115]

Grateful Dead

In November 2005, free downloads of Grateful Dead concerts were removed from the site. John Perry Barlow identified Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann as the instigators of the change, according to a New York Times article.[116] Phil Lesh commented on the change in a November 30, 2005, posting to his personal website:

It was brought to my attention that all of the Grateful Dead shows were taken down from right before Thanksgiving. I was not part of this decision making process and was not notified that the shows were to be pulled. I do feel that the music is the Grateful Dead's legacy and I hope that one way or another all of it is available for those who want it.[117]

A November 30 forum post from Brewster Kahle summarized what appeared to be the compromise reached among the band members. Audience recordings could be downloaded or streamed, but soundboard recordings were to be available for streaming only. Concerts have since been re-added.[118]

National security letter

A national security letter issued to the Internet Archive demanding information about a user

On May 8, 2008, it was revealed that the Internet Archive successfully challenged an FBI national security letter asking for logs on an undisclosed user.[119][120]

Uncensored hosting

On August 17, 2011, Middle East Media Research Institute published "Al-Qaeda, Jihadis Infest the San Francisco, California-Based 'Internet Archive' Library"[121] which detailed how members can post anonymously and enjoy free uncensored hosting.

Opposition to Google Books settlement

The Internet Archive is a member of the Open Book Alliance, which has been among the most outspoken critics of the Google Book Settlement. The Archive advocates an alternative digital library project.[122]

Opposition to SOPA and PIPA bills

The Internet Archive blacked out its website for twelve hours on January 18, 2012, in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act bills, two pieces of pending legislation in the United States Congress that they claim will "negatively affect the ecosystem of web publishing that led to the emergence of the Internet Archive". This occurred in conjunction with the English Wikipedia blackout, as well as numerous other protests across the Internet.[123]

Removal of Citizenfour Documentary

The Internet Archive removed the listing of a documentary about Edward Snowden, called CitizenFour "due to issues with the item's content." [124]

Ceramic Archivists collection

Ceramic figures of Internet Archive employees

The Great Room of the Internet Archive features a collection of over 100 ceramic figures by Nuala Creed representing employees of the Internet Archive. This collection, commissioned by Brewster Kahle and sculpted by Nuala Creed, is ongoing.

List of digitizing sponsors for ebooks

This is a list of some digitizing sponsors for ebooks in the Internet Archive.

Sponsor Collection Number of texts
(March 1, 2014)
Yahoo! [1] 1,076[125]
Microsoft [2] 412,094[126]
Google [3] 907,760[127]
Lyrasis Members and Sloan Foundation [4] 85,845[128]
University of Toronto [5] 139,446[129]
National Library of Scotland [6] 4,847[130]
Natural History Museum Library, London [7] 5,417[131]
University of Alberta Libraries [8] 76,472[132]
Research Library, Getty Research Institute [9] 8,409[133]
Boston Library Consortium [10] 37,482[134]
The Library of Congress [11] 73,693[135]
Allen County Public Library [12] 21,986[136]
Internet Archive [13] 119,776[137]
Harvard University [14] 7,805[138]
China-America Digital Academic Library (CADAL) [15] 78,371[139]
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign [16] 53,076[140]
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill [17] 18,639[141]
Biodiversity Heritage Library [18] 10,001[142]

See also


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  4. "10,000,000,000,000,000 bytes archived!". Internet Archive Blogs. October 26, 2012. On Thursday, 25 October, hundreds of Internet Archive supporters, volunteers, and staff celebrated addition of the 10,000,000,000,000,000th byte to the Archive’s massive collections.
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  14. 14.0 14.1 Ernesto (August 7, 2012). "Internet Archive Starts Seeding 1,398,875 Torrents". TorrentFreak.
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  102. Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  103. Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  104. Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
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Further reading

External links

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