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Wayback machine: web archive service

THE FREE web archive service that has been brought to the public recently will help you visit the old versions of your organisation's web site created a few years ago and view short movies produced in the 1940s and 1950s.

Net archive

It is common knowledge that the information which gets generated through the web is quite unparalleled in its size and variety and the swiftness with which the web grows is really mind-boggling. But one aspect of this astonishing web phenomenon is that many innovative and content-rich web sites with brilliant ideas disappear from the scene without any warning signals. It has been reported that the extinct sites include even the ones that were nominated for the prestigious webby awards _ an interesting article available at: techtv.com/screensavers/supergeek/story/0,24330,3337825,00.html discusses this issue. Even though these services had to close down due to various reasons, it will be useful to preserve these sites as they represent original ideas, good design and rich content. The web archive known as 'Wayback Machine' attempts to create an archive of old web pages _ like the real world archive where we keep our public records and old documents _ that permits netizens to access old, dead and gone web pages.

The web service 'Internet Archive' _ archive.org/ _ aims to create an 'Internet library' that can be used by researchers, marketers, idea seekers, historians and the like. The major objective of the service is to ``help prevent publicly available Internet materials from disappearing into the past.''The 'Wayback Engine' _ web.archive.org _ presented to the public a few days ago by the Internet Archive, contains web data from 1996. The service provides a simple interface that lets you visit the old web pages stored in its database. As reported in their site, the 'Web Wayback' service has already archived 10 billions of web pages and its database now contains more than 100 terabytes of data. As the service periodically collects data, you will be able to know how a site looked like over different time periods. So if you want to know how good your organisation's content and design were a few years ago, just access the service and type in the address of the web site. You will immediately be presented with a table _ organised year-wise _ with the links to various versions of your organisation's site. This aspect of the archive service has another serious implication: whatever you do in the Net is being recorded and preserved, so be careful before publishing on the web.

Another feature of this innovative archive service is the 'Movie Archive', where many rare short educational movies produced several decades ago is available for free download. At present the service hosts more than 900 movies.

A web site interface creator

As all of you are aware, a web site contains different kinds of related files _ HTML, sound, picturea and animations. But when you try to access a file for a specific information, you have to go through the web navigation interface provided by the web site creator. This means the ease with which you can traverse a web site to reach a destination depends entirely on the brilliance and the techniques used by the webmaster in designing the user interface. Usually, the interface is presented in a menu tree and the users have to navigate the site by clicking on the various branches of the menu hierarchy. This kind of menu design, though effective and provides the user a reasonably good mechanism to access the relevant resources, is not capable of giving a complete picture of the available web content. A web user will be more comfortable with a site that gives him an overall visual view of the site as that will help him easily locate the part of the site that host his/her needed resources. The 'Star Tree' of 'Inxight', is a product worth experimenting in this context.

A Star Tree is a graphical network structure of nodes that represents HTML files. An HTML file that has many links in it becomes a centre node and the files linked to it become sub-nodes. Whenever you want to get more details on a particular node you can bring it into focus by clicking on it. Once the node comes into the main focus all the sub-nodes linked to this main node become visible and this way one can easily get into the target location. If the user wants to see the content of a page, just double-click on the node that represents the page's file. To get a better understanding of the technology, you may try out the various 'Star Tree' demos available at the Inxight site.

To create Star Trees: The service provides a utility that lets you create 'Star Trees' that can later be viewed by the Star Tree viewer available for free download. If you want to create a start tree for a site -if you have a site try to crate a star tree for this one-, download the trail version of the Star Tree Studio available at the link: startree.inxight.com/products/. The star tree created this way can even be shared with your friends/clients. After creating the star tree, the software also provides the facility that allows you publish it on the Net.

A dictionary access software

It will be difficult to find someone who does not need the service of a dictionary and thesaurus. But you may find it irritating to look into the dictionary if it is not readily available. You can avoid all the hassles of fetching the dictionary from your home library and locating the word whose meaning is to be found by installing the utility Cleverkeys _ available at: cleverkeys.com _ that fetches the meaning/definition of a word from the online dictionary service at: dictionary.com. This client program will also let you bring in a word's synonym from service Thesaurus.com. You can invoke the program from almost all popular Windows application such as Office and e-mail client. To access the service, link to the Net, select the word and press the key combination Ctrl-L.

J. Murali

(The author can be contacted at:

murali27@satyam.net.in)

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