Internet Archive's Brewster Kahle gets SIIA recognition

Kahle was among the first to think of information on a global scale

The creator of the Internet Archive is being awarded for his work and foresight by the Software and Information Industry Association, the association announced Tuesday.

Archive founder Brewster Kahle will be given the first SIIA Peter E. Jackson Innovation Award during the SIIA's annual Codie Awards dinner, held during the organization's Information Industry Summit this week in New York.

"Brewster gets you thinking out of the box, and helps you start imagining a world that is different from the one you are living in," said Kathy Greenler Sexton, vice president of the SIIA Content Division.

The SIIA named the new award after the late Thomson Reuters vice president and chief scientist, Peter Jackson, who served on the SIIA board for the association's content division. The award will honor individuals who advance the way people work with information. "We are looking for people who have had a profound impact on technology and information, but who also have a very giving way," Sexton said.

During a time when the World Wide Web was still new for most people, Kahle had the idea to capture and preserve large portions of the vast new medium, so the material can be viewed in the future after the originators had deleted or changed the content. "The average life of a Web page was 100 days before it was changed or deleted," he said. The project began collecting material in 1996 and made it available to the public starting in 2001.

Kahle got the idea for Internet Archive after visiting the home of AltaVista, the first large-scale search engine service. He saw that a copy of the entire Web, then about 30 million pages, could fit into racks of servers the size of two vending machines. "We could do that," he thought at the time.

"People said it was impossible, or that we were crazy," Kahle said.

The archive is now a full-fledged nonprofit library, one that collects copies of Web pages as well as software, audio recordings, books and other forms of media. Thus far, it has massed more than 2.7 billion pages, 2 million books, 1 billion audio files and 600,000 movies. The service is used by about 2 million people a day.

Even before the Internet Archive, Kahle was one of the early leading proponents in thinking about information on a global scale. In mid-1985, he worked with famous physicist Richard Feynman to calculate whether it would be possible to digitize all the books, music and movies of the world, an idea then few people thought possible. "We found that it was all-around doable," he said. In 1989, he created WAIS (Wide Area Information Server), a widely used, pre-Web Internet data retrieval system for publishers to share their content online.

While SIIA's membership is made up of chiefly large organizations, Kahle's ideas have made a major impact in the SIIA community.

"Our members are really inspired by his forward thinking and view in what he is trying to do with content, and where he thinks the Internet is going," Greenler Sexton said. "There is a lot of learning that can be had between something that is very consumer-focused and something that is focused on the enterprise."

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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