One of my largest gripes about the web is that it has no memory. But I think this will soon change – at some point in the not too distant future we’ll have live and continuous historical copies of the web that will be searchable – creating, if you will, a time axis for the web, a real-time Wayback Machine (only there’ll be no broken links). In other words, in our lifetimes we’ll see our cultural digital memory – as we understand it through the web and engines like Google – become contiguous, available, always there. And barring a revival of the Luddites or total nuclear war, this chain will most likely be unbroken, forever, into the future. Historians looking back to this era will mark it as a watershed. At some definable point in the early 21st century, the web will gain a memory of itself, one that will never be lost again. Most likely, this will start as a feature of a massively scaled company like Yahoo or Google, much like Gmail or search itself is now. But it’s coming, and the implications are rather expansive.
If the web had a time axis, you could search constrained by webdate. You could ask questions like “show me all results for my query from this time period…” or “Tell me what was the most popular results for XYZ during the 3rd of May in 20XX.” How about “show me every reference to my great grandfather, born in 2050,” asked by a great grandson in 2150? Impossible? Yeah, seems that way, but…so did a free gig of mail and the concept of the entire Internet in RAM. Thanks to the dramatic decrease in the cost of storage, 64-bit computing, abundant memory (jesus, there’s an entendre), and the scalable business model of paid search, I think this day is not far off. The web is just ten years old, for the most part, but think what it might be like when it’s 100 years old. That’s a lot of data to search.
I was reminded of this idea (I had written it down a while back while musing for the book) when Gary sent word that Daypop is archiving its Top 40 back to 2002. It’s fascinating to see what was the buzz, say, two years ago today.