On a foggy September lunchtime in San Francisco, a group of researchers and data scientists sat around foldable plastic tables in what was once a Christian Science church, evangelising about open-source information and the democratisation of knowledge.
The 50-strong party, which had been assembled for a weekly progress discussion, dined downstairs in a pillared building that now houses the Internet Archive, a digital library dedicated to providing “universal access to all knowledge”. As computers hummed on cluttered workstations all around, the employees and a handful of invited guests greeted each update with optimistic applause.
The Internet Archive, founded in 1996, is a non-profit that collects and digitises information, from films to books. It is best known for the Wayback Machine, a free repository of web pages that allows users to see what a particular URL looked like when it was archived, regardless of whether it has since been changed or taken down.