C4. Format obsolescence

While the QA process is designed to assure that captured web instances are sufficiently complete and integral to render reliably in an archival web environment, future conventions of the web that may supersede and render obsolete file formats and/or information transfer protocols of that current environment cannot be fully anticipated. The properly rendered content that we view today, that is, will only continue to render as long as it is intelligible to the browsing software and operating systems through which it displays. Far from a long-term concern, this problem already manifests among NYARC collections in the forms of complex, structured, and frequently proprietary file formats and/or web-based applications that cannot render through current browsing software or operating systems as they had in the past.



In both the live and archived versions of this 1998 David Goldblatt exhibition site, an audio narration by the photographer fails to playback in situ, rather prompting download in an outmoded file format. While it is possible for the end-user to access the contents of this file through emulation and/or carefully chosen software, NYARC cannot intervene to emulate proper playback in the original web-based environment.

QA technicians must attempt to capture as complete a record of this content as is achievable through scope adjustment and/or patch crawling in order to enable future emulation or other mitigative practice. Any ultimate failure of this content to accurately render through the Wayback interface must however for informational purposes be reported to Archive-It and documented on the relevant crawl’s QA report form.