How the father of the internet is trying to make the web last forever

If you try to read the files on an old floppy disk, chances are you’ll have trouble retrieving the information, considering today’s computers don’t have floppy disk-compatible drives.

Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet and Google’s chief internet evangelist, is worried the same thing might happen to future webpages: as web browsers continue to evolve, current websites will become unreadable for future generations.

“I’m concerned about a coming digital dark ages,” Cerf told Wired.

In response, Cerf, his fellow internet creators, and a group of hackers and archivists, are working together to invent a system that can store every bit of the web, as well as data from apps, and make that data readable far into the future. The idea is to make the Internet like a library–except with computer-stored backups rather than pieces of paper.

One key part of the plan is calling the Interplanetary File System (IPFS). It takes archived snapshots of web sites and stores them on a distributed network of computers — much like peer-to-peer file sharing networks, but specifically for archived web pages.

One potential roadblock is that lots of users have to agree to run the software. But Benet’s team has created a JavaScript version that runs in people’s browsers, so at least they don’t have to download anything.

“We are giving digital information print-like quality,” IPFS founder Juan Benet told Wired. “If I print a piece of paper and physically hand it to you, you have it, you can physically archive it and use it in the future.”

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