Sarah Middleton

Sarah Middleton

Last updated on 20 April 2023

Time has felt a bit elastic over the last few years for all of the obvious reasons; a year has either felt like a decade or 10 minutes. But I can assure you that despite it feeling like the latter, it IS time to relaunch our community call for nominations to the Bit List again! …all in time for our next full revision of the list which will be published on World Digital Preservation Day, 2nd November 2023.

Over the course of these elastic years, we have welcomed many new members of our digital preservation community, many of whom might be wondering what on earth this Bit List business is all about. There may be some long-standing members of the community thinking the same. So, for you, this blog post is a whistle stop tour of how this all came to be…and what to do with it!

(If you know all this, skip to the part about ‘what do I do now?’)

What is the Bit List?

A free-to-access and open resource for digital preservation advocacy, the DPC's Global Bit List of Endangered Digital Species (or Bit List for short) is a community-sourced list of at-risk digital materials which is revised every two years. You can find it here:

Entries to the list are nominated by you - the community, you - who are at the forefront of digital preservation efforts, and they are reviewed by our newly assembled Bit List Council of international organizations which represent global expertise in the preservation of the listed digital species.

By compiling and maintaining the Bit List, the DPC aims to equip you as digital preservation practitioners with impartial evidence that digital materials ARE critically endangered, that your work matters and that action IS required, in order to support your targeted advocacy efforts.

How did it come about?

First published in 2017 (to coincide with the first ever World Digital Preservation Day), the Bit List was inspired by the IUCN’s incredibly important Red List of Threatened Species which draws on the knowledge of international organisations which represent expertise across all living species to highlight those most at risk, and to garner targeted support and action to save them.

What if we did the same – we thought?!

Until that point in time, much of the headline grabbing stories relating to digital preservation had been about ‘the digital dark ages,’ digital disaster, loss, doom and gloom. But compiling and maintaining a list of digital species over time would not only capture the doom and gloom scenarios, but would provide an opportunity to celebrate good news stories too! Over time, and with good honest digital preservation work applied in the right way, surely some of these digital species would become less at risk?

And so it has been!

In 2021 (the last full Bit List report) we noted eleven entries demonstrated a trend towards reduced risk (compared to one in 2020), with the entry for ‘Pre-WWW ViewData and Teletext Services…’ moving from Practically Extinct to Critically Endangered. This was based on a number of important developments reported since it was first added to the Bit List in 2017, raising hope that collections can be recovered and re-used under certain circumstances. Hurrah! 

Check in with the Bit List page on the DPC website for 'Bit List Entry of the Week' as we showcase a different entry each week, and you will be able to see how we have tracked the trend in their risk profiles.

Well that all sounds lovely, but what do I do with it?

The Global Bit List of Endangered Digital Species is first and foremost an advocacy tool. And our hope is that by providing real, illustrative examples of at-risk digital materials alongside their identified aggravating risk factors and recommendations for practical action, users may present this information in support of their own advocacy activities and to make a strong independently verified case for digital preservation action. For example…

  • Use the evidence in a business case or policy - detailing preservation risks can help to communicate the need for digital preservation action while detailing benefits can demonstrate the potential value in investing in digital preservation. You can use the Bit List to reference examples of 'at risk' digital content within your organization that you wish to highlight.

  • Raise awareness – for the last few years the AusPreserves community have led a #BitListBakeOff as part of World Digital Preservation Day. They, and others around the world, bake items from the Bit List and share their wares (physically and on social media) to raise awareness of at-risk digital materials. Who doesn’t like a ‘byte’ to eat, with a side order of advocacy?! 😉

  • Educate – a number of our DPC Members are educators offering courses in information management which covers digital preservation, and they use the Bit List to frame the way they deliver course content using real-world examples.

We'll be sharing more examples of how the digital preservation community has used the Bit List to support their advocacy endeavours on the blog over the coming months. Watch this space...

What do I do now?

Current entries include content types like social media or specific file formats; media types like floppy disks or obsolete optical media; or data from specific contexts like politically sensitive content or community archives which are not at risk for any technical reason but reside in unstable contexts.


The DPC invites you to submit entry suggestions for at-risk digital materials to its 2023 edition of the Bit List by Friday 30th June.

And, by the way, nominations to the Bit List 2023 could be any one or all of entry types (content/media/context) above.

The process is simple:

  1. Check out the current list to see what is already there,

  2. Submit corrections or evidence in support of/on the contrary to any existing entries you think need updating,

  3. Submit new nominations if you identify a content type, media type or context which you feel is not represented on the list.

If you get to the bottom of that list and you don’t have any corrections or new nominations to submit, there are other things you can do:

  • Use it – look to see which species and/or Bit List entry most closely aligns with the digital materials you are working with. Do you think your work would benefit from more resources, better support or investment, greater buy-in and understanding from your organisation, or even from those upstream making decisions which affect the way you can do your work? Direct their attention to the relevant part of the Bit List and let them know that it is an impartial set of information independently verified by international digital preservation experts.

  • Share how you’ve used it – If you’ve already done this; referenced the Bit List in a business case, used it to prioritise your digital preservation actions, used it to raise awareness in your own context – please share what you did, how you did it, and what the outcome was! To share how you have used the Bit List to support your advocacy activities, please

  • Share it – the digital preservation community is wonderfully supportive, so if you see an opportunity to share the Bit List with a fellow digital preservationist, please do just that.

The Bit List relies on the digital preservation community to keep it current, relevant and useful. And everyone within the community benefits from your contribution, whatever that may be.

Read more about endangered bits and start saving them now:


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