A few months ago a kindred spirit died, and in preparation for the inevitable “404 site not found” I saved his website. I recently discovered that the copy which I saved does not work unless I have an internet connection open. His site relied on a main page with a frame at the side, and downloading the “whole site” just got the frame and the home page. Wherever else I clicked, I was silently downloading from his own server even though the URL stayed the same. After some experimentation I installed some software and created an archive of his website which works without an Internet connection and may remain readable in future years.
When we write on the Internet we are writing in sand. On one hand we must accept the risk that anything which we send over the Internet will be public forever, yet on the other hand we cannot trust that a webpage will be intact and findable in five years. The main public archiving sites often leave out images and videos to save space, but one of the strengths of the Internet is that it lets us integrate pictures and texts. Electronic publishing does not create Horace’s monument more lasting than bronze, but one more fragile than glass.