QOTD: protocol-based time travel for the web

We are pleased that Herbert Van de Sompel will be talking about Memento, a joint project of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Old Dominion University, at OCLC later this month. We will make a webcast available; see the details here. If you are in Central Ohio, come by ....

Here is a recent paper describing the work:

The Web is ephemeral. Many resources have representa- tions that change over time, and many of those represen- tations are lost forever. A lucky few manage to reappear as archived resources that carry their own URIs. For ex- ample, some content management systems maintain version pages that reflect a frozen prior state of their changing re- sources. Archives recurrently crawl the web to obtain the actual representation of resources, and subsequently make those available via special-purpose archived resources. In both cases, the archival copies have URIs that are protocol- wise disconnected from the URI of the resource of which they represent a prior state. Indeed, the lack of temporal capabilities in the most common Web protocol, HTTP, pre- vents getting to an archived resource on the basis of the URI of its original. This turns accessing archived resources into a signicant discovery challenge for both human and software agents, which typically involves following a mul- titude of links from the original to the archival resource, or of searching archives for the original URI. This paper proposes the protocol-based Memento solution to address this problem, and describes a proof-of-concept experiment that includes major servers of archival content, including Wikipedia and the Internet Archive. The Memento solution is based on existing HTTP capabilities applied in a novel way to add the temporal dimension. The result is a frame- work in which archived resources can seamlessly be reached via the URI of their original: protocol-based time travel for the Web. [Memento]

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