Critically Endangered small

Apps created for smartphones. Many are deprecated quickly but others survive through multiple update cycles.  It is hard to maintain version control and often dependent upon the company that publishes them. There is no clear agency or mandate to record or collect.

Group: Apps

Trend: no change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

Last update: 2018

Previously: Critically Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within 12 months, detailed assessment is now a priority

Significance of Loss

The loss of data, tools or services within this group would be felt globally.

Effort to Preserve

Loss seems likely: by the time tools or techniques have been developed the material will likely have been lost.


London 2012 app; BBC Olympic app; Apps published for Apple iOS 10 or earlier

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Device dependence; poor documentation; uncertainty over IPR; short term contracts; lack of skills, commitment or policy from corporate owners; rapid churn of OS; shifting business requirements of app resellers; dependence on exotic or obsolete formats or OS processes;

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Strong documentation; version control for code and compiled app; emulation enabled; designated repository taking preservation responsibility and capable to deliver

2019 Review

This entry was submitted in 2017 and has been retained to draw attention to the challenges of software preservation and the extraordinary velocity of the market for apps. Given the speed of change it is hard to see how digital preservation efforts can keep pace.  It may help to split this entry into different groups based on the platform though the risks would be largely the same.

Additional Jury Comments

Old versions of apps are completely lost to most users: once you upgrade an app you typically can't go back.  Perhaps ios is more critical - at least with Android you can often get .apk from the internet separate from the marketplace. The NSRL contains hundreds of thousands of mobile applications which are not being actively preserved but could be if a mandate existed. An extension to Legal Deposit might be possible.

The faster we act the less we will lose. It is unlikely that there will ever be one agent with mandate to collect and different apps available in different countries so a network of national organisations would be needed. The companies that create these apps are the key to the licensing challenges and conversation with them is necessary, though would need to happen immediately in order to negotiate the right to preserve/escrow both apps, operating systems, documentation, and phone development emulators.

Apps often provide a secondary view on the primary data and in many cases that data is more important, and arguably easier to preserve.  So, although this is an eye-catching entry it is not as significant as others. 

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