Critically Endangered small

Social media services offered free at the point of use with a subscription model based on reselling user behavior and/or advertising.

Group: Social Media

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2017

Trend towards greater risk

Previous classification: Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within one year.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to address losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube, Instagram, Periscope, DropBox, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yahoo Groups

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of preservation capacity in provider; Lack of preservation commitment or incentive from provider; Lack of storage replication; proprietary products or formats; poor data protection; inaccessibility to web archiving; political or commercial interference; Lack of offline equivalent; super-abundance; poorly managed IPR; Lossy compression in upload scripts.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Offline backup and documentation of media assets; Migration plan; Early warning from vendors; Roadmap from vendors; Accessible to web harvest; Suitable export functionality; Licencing enables preservation; Preservation commitment from vendor; Preservation capability in vendor;

Resilient to hacking; Selection criteria;

2021 Review

The 2019 added this entry as a subset of a previous 2017 entry, emphasizing the different threats faced by online services that are ‘paid-for’ versus ‘free-at-the-point-of-use’. Both depend on the business model of the vendor and the terms which they impose. There are overlaps with the 2021 entry Cloud-based Services and Communications Platforms, but this entry remains separate to highlight that for this group of social media services as digital materials, the business model and sustainability can only be guessed and contracts tend to be asymmetrical in favour of the supplier. Moreover, because these services have a low barrier to entry they may be favoured by agencies or individuals least able to respond to closure or loss. Preserving this stuff en mass is still incredibly difficult, but many of these platforms allow the downloading of their own personal content / archives. However, these lose all the context of social media and therefore, whilst they do preserve the data, they do not preserve the essence of the material. Platforms like Twitter have opened their API further in recent years, but thinks like Yahoo are being closed down and Facebook continues to be almost hostile towards archiving and preservation attempts. Over the last year, concerns have arisen with a trend towards harmful and malicious hate speech and misinformation, deliberate deletion. For these reasons, there is a 2021 trend towards greater risk but no change to the critically endangered classification.

Additional Jury Comments

Social media capture via web harvesting has become increasingly difficult. The platforms continue to put up barriers to automated capture that prevent the preservation of even so-called public content. For example, campaign websites or other election-related content that is only published on Facebook or on Twitter because these services are ‘free.’ This content is of particular concern as it appears on no other website. Web archivists are constantly shifting strategies and approaches and trying out new (but limited) tools to best capture this content. If we cannot successfully preserve these platforms, we are missing out on documenting organizations, campaigns and elections around the globe. Much of this data exists as data sets based on aggregated use rather than individual files.

Often these are external proprietary platforms bound by intellectual property law and potentially privacy law which will impede the imminence of action. What recourse do archives or digital repositories have to deal with this and capture the materials?

Case Studies or Examples:

  • An example of a tool available to help libraries and archives with capture is Archive Social, online at

  • A range of use cases are presented in Thomson, S. (2016). Preserving Social Media, DPC Technology Watch Report (16-02), online at

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