Adobe Flash Animations and Interactive Applets

   Practically Extinct small

Animations, games, and other interactive applets created with Macromedia Adobe Flash Player and Shockwave Flash, along with their accompanying websites. These are primarily .swf files, but they can also include networked collections of .swf files and external assets, as well as the web pages where they are displayed.

Group: Web

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: New Entry

Trend towards greater risk

Previous classification: Critically Endangered

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

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, such as the development of new preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Flash and Shockwave based games; cartoons; interactives

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Migration plan initiated; supported in multiple browsers; security vetted; emulation pathway

2021 Review

This entry was added in 2019. The 2019 jury noted that flash animations and applets was a mainstay of interactive web design from the late 1990’s. Flash animations and interactives are created using tools supplied by the Adobe of the same name.  Although Flash enables the development of sophisticated interaction at low cost over the web, it has had a chequered history in terms of browser support and has been plagued by security concerns.  It is due to be retired by December 2020 and publishers are being encouraged to migrate to alternative formats. 

The 2020 Jury added the trend towards greater risk based on the indication by Adobe for some time that there would be withdrawal of support to Flash Animation which (due for retiral in December 2020), and actions to retrieve Flash Animation are therefore more urgent than in 2019.

As noted by the 2021 Jury, the discontinuation and withdrawal of support did indeed occur. Flash is no longer supported and loss already experienced with Adobe's deprecation of Flash and lack of support in modern web browsers. For this reason, the classification has moved to practically extinct with a trend towards greater risk given the loss of dependence on Flash which has resulted in new aggravating conditions for migration pathway, emulation pathway, source code, lack of capacity or motivation to support, no commercial interest.

Additional Jury Comments

Flash represents a significant amount of the creativity of websites in the early 2000s including net-based art and cartoons. With extinction, archives will need to consider if it is possible to preserve interaction through the development of new web archiving and emulation tools and techniques.

Read More

Legacy Interfaces and Services Offered Online by Major Companies

   Practically Extinct small

Online services with unique interfaces that change regularly and through those changes provide a different experience AND different content to their users.

Group: Social Media

Trend in 2021:

Unanimous Decision

Added to List: 2019

No Change

Previous classification: Practically Extinct

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.

Examples

Interfaces to Gmail, Facebook, Google Docs, Hotmail, Ask Jeeves, Tweetdeck, TurboTax, MySpace, Quicken Online, and many others

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Robust and extensive web archives with strong documentation of search algorithms, ranking and personalization of interfaces.

2021 Review

This entry was added in 2019. The Jury noted that while there are overlaps with several other entries around social media and the web which pertain to content, this entry highlights the configuration of interfaces and therefore the ever-changing arrangement and presentation of content.  Personalization means that the same query can produce quite different results to different users at the same time; and the application of machine learning to behavioural surplus means the same may obtain different results at different points in time.  That is over and above the rapid churn in the appearance of web interfaces.  There is little appreciation of the implications for the use of online services, and the potential for manipulations that arise. Moreover, the digital preservation community, concerned historically with data rather than interface, has only rudimentary tools to address this challenge. The 2021 Jury agrees with this description as well as the 2020 Jury’s conclusion of no trend towards greater or reduced risk, but adds that the lack of standardised regulation and lack of transparency of operations by some of these platforms can still be problematic and make the content hosted there vulnerable to loss. For example, some content creators on YouTube may lose access to their content and accounts due to copyright infringement claims or reports of inappropriate content which may or may not be supportable. The risk of loss is higher if the content is not stored anywhere else. Though there are some mitigation methods available through the platform, so this issue may only affect a small number of accounts.

Additional Jury Comments

Some of the content/iterations of these are likely preserved to an extent within existing web archives but not as targeted collection efforts. As we've seen with myspace and other platforms where the platform producers decide to remove content or shut down rather quickly, it can be too late if this content has not been preserved already.

Upgrading is compulsory - if really considered a problem, could an emulator be developed/used? This is like how some sites respond differently depending on which browser you are using - what is the significance or value in capturing all these differing user experiences?

Why can we see how online services behaved five years ago? Moreover, why cannot we see how they manipulated data to present content differently from how they now do such that the content we can access via them is different?

The authenticity of displaying social media content from 2014 through modern interfaces is questionable, and without recording the interface at the time, it is not currently possible to recreate older interfaces. You'd think the platform owners would have the older versions saved, but these are not available at the moment, and it would be worth engaging in a conversation about making them available to cultural heritage institutions for display purposes.

How far do we take this? The returns are likely to diminish. Who is taking responsibility to preserve? What are the platform creators doing to preserve this cultural history?

Some of this information is almost certainly lost already (some through deliberate erasure). The imminence of action depends on the type of institution.

Read More

Non-standard Public Records

   Practically Extinct small

Records created in the course of public administration and subject to public records legislation but created on unofficial channels and platforms and therefore subject to unlawful destruction whether by accident or design.

Group: Digital Legal Records

Trend in 2021:

Unanimous Decision

Added to List: 2019

No Change

Previous classification: Practically Extinct

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.

Examples

Content and messages from cloud based instant messaging services (such as WhatsApp Telegram or Snapchat) that pertains to public administration and is subject to public records legislation but concealed from or inaccessible to archival agencies. 

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Archival pathway; public officials briefed on the nature of public records and the penalties for illegal disposal; boundary between public and private correspondence; cloud services administered transparently; export functions.

2021 Review

This entry was added in 2019 as a subset of an entry in 2018 for ‘Digital Legal Records and Evidence’, which the Jury split into four different entries in order to draw attention to the different challenges and priorities that arise. The 2019 Jury has gave this entry the strongest indication of risk available. This group includes those records which may contain politically damaging or uncomfortable realities and thus be at risk of deletion; and may be concealed from archival agencies whether by accident or design. The 2019 Jury also noted that the destruction of certain classes of public records is unlawful, whether or not it is deliberate.

The 2020 Jury added the trend towards greater risk based on the ‘pivot to digital’ necessitated by the Pandemic resulting in widespread changes in workflow and in platform for the delivery of government, with significant amounts of remote working.  These changes happened rapidly often without time to consider the preservation and record keeping implications.  In those circumstances it was reasonable to suppose the risks expanded in size as well as scope.

The 2021 Jury agrees with this assessment and classification but found no significant increase or decrease to the 2020 trend. The 2021 Jury also adds the comment that there should be a balance between trying to preserve what has already been created using these channels and trying to educate against/prevent records being created this way in the future.

Additional Jury Comments

This is a ‘small effort to fix’ in terms of the technology to export data. But loss seems likely unless there is stronger monitoring and enforcement of the policy around this.

Agencies responsible for the public record will not be able to completely control their public servants' use of unofficial channels (but could tighten), so they need methods to obtain from unofficial channels. Very important for public accountability and transparency of the state.

Obviously, these records should not be created using these channels in the first place. It is probably unlawful for those in public office. However, we know there has and always will be this kind of backdoor activity and pretty much always a scandal when it is revealed. The challenge is managing to collect it.

Read More

Older Open Source Intelligence Sources

   Practically Extinct small

Older open source social media and web content which supports crowd-sourced investigation and fact-checking to verify or refute claims of state agencies and rebel groups in the context of historic political or military conflict.

Group: Digital Legal Records

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

No Change

Previous classification: Practically Extinct

Imminence of Action

Immediate action necessary.  Where detected they should be stabilised and reported as a matter of urgency

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.

Examples

Social media sources relating to the Arab spring

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Offline backup documented and available for recovery;

2021 Review

This entry was added in 2019 from a nominated entry that was split into three subsets by the 2019 Jury relating to current, recent, and historic sources.  This entry relates in particular to materials published at the time of the ‘Arab’ spring.  Social media companies had initially taken little or no action with respect to social media content in conflict zones, taking the view either that they were mere technical platforms and therefore not responsible for editorial; or that the platforms were being used largely for a social good, loosening the control of the media from oppressive regimes.  However, as the Arab Spring progressed, the companies came under significant pressure to monitor content with more care, in part because terrorist groups had begun using the social media platforms for propaganda purposes.  The social media companies responded by implementing algorithms that removed or deleted content.  This had the unintended consequence of deleting or supressing content that was being used in open source investigation for journalistic or judicial purposes and may have resulted in refutation or prosecution. 

The 2019 Jury recognized the duty of care that social media companies have towards their users and is in no sense seeking to have that material re-published on the open web but noted the unintended consequence for journalists and investigatory authorities from the rush to deletion, illustrating how this entry further underlines the relative fragility of all social media content.

The 2021 Jury agrees with the current classification and description.

Additional Jury Comments

This is important for social context but may be picked up inadvertently through other ways; it remains ambiguous about who has ultimate responsibility for collecting and preserving this.

See also:

Read More

Pre-WWW Videotex Data Services and Bulletin Board Services

   Practically Extinct small

Pre WWW telephone and television information services that allowed a degree of user interaction and data retrieval with modem-based two way communication.

Group: Sound & Vision

Trend in 2021:

Unanimous Decision

Added to List: 2017

No Change

Previous classification: Practically Extinct

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.

Examples

Prestel, Minitel, VidiTel and Videotex NL, Alex, BelTel, FidoNet

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Offline backup documented and available for recovery;

2021 Review

This entry was added in 2017 and there has been no evidence to document any change in the initial classification that such data was practically extinct.  There may be examples residing in offline backups of services taken at the time, but these are likely to have deteriorated rapidly.  Therefore the Jury calls on anyone with such collections to act quickly to stabilise and recover content. The 2021 Jury agrees with the current classification and description with no change to trend.

Additional Jury Comments

Is there any real value with this type of content apart from nostalgia and understanding the evolution of technology?

I think that this material is Critically Endangered and it will impact our understanding of pre WWW digital/electronic communications. When ranking 'impact,' I considered the loss in terms of impact on human life, which is minimal, but it does have an impact on understanding our history.

From a cultural studies point of view, it is a huge loss.

This is also something that links to community archives and community heritage - early online forums were a place of community development and community creation.

Presumably, a database is sitting behind these types of things and has emulation been tried? Although there is no structured collection of this material, many individuals have archives, and a campaign of the nature of 'Missing believed Wiped' might be effective

Almost impossible to get this data back (we can hope for some disks to show up one day that has traces on them).

Read More

Unpublished Research Data

   Practically Extinct small

Data sets produced in the course of research but never shared or made available outside of the initial research team

Group: Research Outputs

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend towards reduced risk

Previous classification: Practically Extinct

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.

Examples

Unpublished research data

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Replication and documentation; data management plan; preservation pathway agreed

2021 Review

This entry was added in 2019 as a subset of the ‘Unpublished Research Outputs’ reported in 2018, which was split into entries to draw attention to the different preservation requirements and concerns that arise. This entry relates specifically to research data which has not been shared or published by any means and is thus in contravention of the ‘FAIR’ principles which require data to be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. Without proper planning, research data can have a high barrier to re-use, especially where documentation is lacking. The Jury takes the view that documentation and re-use go hand in hand, and researchers should be under no illusions that data not documented or shared faces material and immediate risks of extinction. Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to address the risk of data loss, and it was the 2019 Jury’s hope that this is now a small group. The 2021 Jury agreed with the description and classification and did see that there has been a trend towards reduced risk in light of more robust collaborative initiatives to jointly address the risk of data loss in and across research communities.

Additional Jury Comments

If we do not know it exists, does it exist? It may also be that in certain circumstances this includes data that is unfavorable and has intentionally not been published.

If perceived as high-value, someone in the research team will likely take steps to ensure it is protected. We can be proactive and offer advice, but ultimately it is down to them. We cannot keep everything! 

This is a wide field, so the scale and impact are hard to describe, but the risk is higher than papers due to potential file format complexity.

Success is dependent on how successful an institution's research data management communications are. Advocacy and research are needed to show the scale of the problem, as well as education regarding open science and preservation.

Read More

Scroll to top