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.


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