Doing Research the Old Way
I remember a day when I was a high school student. I went to Lucerne’s city library and went to the reading room. Within minutes I held the original copy of the first edition of Lucerne’s oldest newspaper in my hands. At that time you could still get the original paper as a citizen and not just a microfilmed copy. This was a remarkable experience. I was able to dive for a moment into this time capsule and read the newspaper’s articles, as if they were freshly printed (though the years’ left their mark on the paper). This was only possible, because of the library preserving this historic document. Would you like to remember information easily without losing it again, even if the web is evolving?
The Internet Is Constantly Evolving
In our digital era this kind of feat seams disproportionately more difficult as the article „Raiders of the Lost Web” colorfully illustrates.
The Internet is not a static information storage space. On the contrary each moment webpages or even entire websites appear and disappear. Articles are moved to a new place and there often is no permanent link to exactly that piece of information. A study published in 2012, mentioned in this article, stated that in two and a half years 30% of linked documents disappeared completely.
Although it is no surprise that the information on the internet changes, it is stunning at what rate that happens. This is the main reason that Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat created the Wayback Machine, that hast currently saved more than 400 billion webpages to preserve them from getting lost. But while the Wayback Machine is a very good thing, there is no guarantee that the information that is important to you remains preserved.
The Internet Is Not a Library
As users of the internet we usually are not aware, that the internet is evolving. That the interwoven, intricate web of documents and references constantly changes and morphs. We take for granted that certain information is always available. When we want to know something, we often consult Wikipedia and the information is right at our fingertips. When we look up information about the „Civil rights movement“, we expect to find the same information again and again. We preclude, that somebody somehow keeps it up to date and takes care to preserve it.
So why bother?
The Magnitude of Information Churn
What we often ignore though is the fact, that Wikipedia is a curated information source, with an infrastructure set up and kept running based on donations and a content maintained by volunteers. Most of the other content on the web is more in flux than you may think. According to Internet Live Stats there are (at the time of this writing) around 1.5 billion websites online, with nearly 800 million of them being added just in 2016.
Memory Loss on the Internet
On the other hand only about 200 million are active websites (the rest are parked domains, etc.). As Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive pointed out „The average life of a web page is 100 days…“. This is not much. An opinion piece in form of a blog post that is interesting to you might disappear within 3 months. And your motivation to preserve content does not have to be about litigation and lawsuits as mentioned in this piece („Why You Must Archive Website Content“. It might be about preserving past knowledge. It happens even to entire countries like Ireland, as the article „Ireland’s digital content in danger of disappearing, specialist warns“ shows.
The durability of digital documents – and therefore indirectly knowledge – is significantly lower than that of physical media. You might not need to know everything about one nations literary legacy. But you are surely concerned with documents that are important to you personally.
Preventing Valuable Content From Disappearing
Are you a knowledge gatherer like me? Then you are looking for not only finding relevant articles for topics you are interested in. Instead you want to be able to put them in a safe place. And you want to be sure, it will not vanish. This is what Unouit does for you. It is your safe place to store content. This way can use it later. Maybe you are researching the history of Napoleon or you are looking for papers about security in distributed systems.
The Alternatives for Storing Documents
What are the alternatives for remembering content?
- Printing web documents on paper and put them in a file
Nah, …we do not want to go back to this, do we?
- Saving web documents to some local filesystem
Although this sounds like a proven way to store documents for later use (especially if you add a local search engine), this method has serious drawbacks for the traveling knowledge worker. You have to take your storage with you when you travel, you have to organize and optimize storage space and you add to the duplication of documents on the hard drives of the world.
- Saving/bookmarking web documents within content providers
More and more content and news providers and aggregators (like Facebook, Flipboard, certain newspapers, etc.) allow you to like an article of theirs or to add it to your own set of preferred content collection. As handy as it is to be able to bookmark or even save content of any one provider on the market, it comes at a personal cost. Not only are these kinds of services mere bookmarking helpers. You are also condemned to switch between apps to access the content item that interests you.
- Saving web documents to some centralized web storage service
The above problem of bookmarking/storing interesting content in multiple places fostered the proliferation of centralized web storage services like Pocket. These services provided users with means to pass a contents’ URL to the service and have it downloaded for later reading and use within the service providers app. This is currently the state of the art approach for content storage.
The last approach is definitely a very valid way of handling things and thus exactly the way Unouit works, the only difference being, that Unouit is much more.
More than Information Storage
Unouit’s storage of your content is not only permanent, but optimized for preserving storage space, by storing the same content, independently in how many places on the web it was found, just once, independently of the text format (HTML or PDF).
But what happens should Unouit go out of business? Be assured: that we give you the time to export all the content you put aside to your personal device, in an easily understandable format. Your saved articles and content is yours to keep. We store it in a safe place near the Swiss alps. We build our services with security and redundancy in mind. This way you do not loose what you gathered in a long time.
Our goal is to provide you with an environment, where you have total control over the duration your content is stored, while allowing for a gradual and fully automatic cleanup mechanism (similar to our memory), that allows to slowly forget unused or non-relevant content. And most importantly, remember easily!