Critically Endangered small

Since 1994, people have set up collections of digital content on the web with software now outdated. Those collections are valuable but lose funding and care as institutions re-configure their tasks and individuals retreat from their task due to retirement or (as volunteers) to old age.

Group: Web

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

increased riskTrend towards greater risk

Previous classification: Critically Endangered


Trend in 2022: 


No change No Change


Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is a priority.

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

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


Academic and institutional website from the first decade of the web containing details of research projects and interests as well as research data.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Inaccessible to web archive; bespoke code; insufficient documentation; uncertain intellectual property right.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Secured by web archive; documentation and rights information published alongside

2021 Jury Review

This entry was added in 2019. There are overlaps with the entry with the ‘Semi-Published Research Data’ entry, but it is a separate entry to distinguish between ‘current’ and ‘legacy’ collections with different risk profiles: in this case, the fact that materials of legacy web collections are no longer actively maintained increased the classification to Critically Endangered in comparison to Endangered Semi-Published Research Data. The 2021 Jury agreed with these distinctions, adding that loss has already occurred and future loss can be prevented through approaches such as web archiving and code preservation, however the risks has become greater notably over the preceding years due to security issues posed by hosting legacy technology software and services which have prompted disposal of content imminently without adequate review or selection. Therefore, there was a 2021 risk towards increased risk to reflect this.

Additional Comments

The Internet Archive and other national web archiving bodies have copies of a lot of websites that would fit into this category but by no means all. There’s also a distinction between the software or code used to deliver the user experience and the data. Such code is secondary to the content.

This issue can be intensified by the legacy IT Infrastructure in cases where much of the content is hosted there, as security concerns may lead to disposal of content imminently IT. In these scenarios, their imminence of action becomes more urgent given the security issues posed by hosting legacy technology/software/etc.

Case Studies or Examples:

  • Preserving the Carmichael Watson Research Project website at the University of Edinburgh: a case study on this project website, only online from 2013 until 2018, came to imminent risk of permanent loss and the strategy undertaken to transform it into a more sustainable format through web archiving and to revive its public accessibility. Recording of presentation from the Web Archiving & Preservation Working Group General Meeting, held on the 9th of December 2021 available at 


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