Oct. 26, 2012 at 6:34 PM ET
There are plenty of things on the Internet today that won't matter tomorrow, but this online world of ours is also a powerful way to store and browse all kinds of data from the past. The non-profit Internet Archive, which is dedicated to preserving all kinds of culture digitally, has recently hit an amazing milestone: 10 petabytes of stored data.
The collection comprises everything from World War II newsreels to classic literature to public domain music, and of course, the famous "Wayback Machine," with which you can visit many popular websites through the years.
This week saw the addition of the 10,000,000,000,000,000th byte to the pile — that's 10 petabytes, 10,000 terabytes, or 10 million gigabytes. That particular byte was likely mixed in with the recent and enormous 80-terabyte crawl of the Web's most popular sites. You could just visit the sites themselves, of course, but researchers looking to systematically analyze the content of millions of webpages can't be sitting around waiting for them to load. Huge downloadable archives like this are invaluable for their purposes.
Archive.org's blog post also notes that they have put up what they describe as "the first complete literature of a people," specifically that of the Balinese. It's an impressive feat and guarantees the survival of these vital historical documents. The effort is reminiscent of another, which is attempting to fully document endangered languages. Such culturally important projects are a good reminder of the Internet's value apart from news and entertainment.
The Archive is free to browse, of course, and recently added the option to download files via BitTorrent, which should help keep costs down and accessibility up.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.