The Bit List

A ‘Bit List’ of the world’s endangered digital species has been unveiled to mark International Digital Preservation Day.

Data, software and storage methods like digital photos, radio recordings and even the digital records of local public authorities all feature on the critical list which reveals the digital material most at risk of extinction.

The Bit List was co-ordinated and published by the Digital Preservation Coalition, which wants tougher regulation for the preservation of digital material.

A Warning for Libraries

For libraries, the Bit List also serves as a warning – making them aware of the digital preservation methods which could put parts of their collections at risk.

Dr William Kilbride, Executive Director of DPC explained: “Teletext and the BBC’s Ceefax are an example of digital material which is now practically extinct and cannot be accessed by any practical means.

“While this might not be seen as critical information, and the service has been replaced by a modern equivalent, it matters for two reasons. Our libraries and archives have good collections of printed newspapers: but for the late 70’s, 80’s and 1990’s there’s a gap relating to this genre of online news.

“That’s a concern for historians and journalists. But more importantly, it demonstrates the trend to data loss, even for popular and well-funded services. That matters to us all.”

Online Data Exinction

Politically sensitive information also makes it onto the Bit List, with data on everything from US environmental statistics to Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum causing concern. Online records of both are at risk of extinction despite their importance in political history.  

Dr Kilbride added: “Not everything on the Bit List will interest everyone equally but everyone will find something on the list which resonates with them.

“By the same token, not everything needs to be kept: quite the contrary. But we need to make informed decisions about what to keep, and develop coherent strategies to protect them. This is much more than simply a question of technology.”

Digital Reform

The DPC believe a mix of industry regulation and reform is required to help preserve our digital material – including the IT industry adopting simple safeguarding techniques and copyright laws keeping up with technological advancements.

For more on Digital Preservation and to see the list in full visit the Digital Preservation Coalition website.