The web still has lots of carry-overs from the real-world. Think of the way the names given to so many online items, such as folders, bookmarks, pages and tabs. They comfort people by reminding them of a real-world office.
As people become more comfortable online we can dispense with some key 20th century ideas. Among these, perhaps the most useless of all is the Archive. Back in the day, when we needed row-upon-row of dusty filing cabinets to store the information of a single organization, archives were a neccessary evil.
In the online world, they’re next to useless. Allow me to explain:
- SEO. Companies such as the New York Times are realising that getting their content out of the archives can be their most powerful SEO weapon.
- Long Tail. We live in the era of the Long Tail, Ladies and Gentlemen. Unless you rank really well for a competitive keyword, most of your site’s traffic will come from obscure keywords and keyphrases and much if it will come to old, established pages, rather than your new content. Whole companies have been built just to help people manage their Long Tail online.
- Relevance. If its not news, it probably not going out of date. I’m constantly suprised by the way that some of my old blog posts jump into life again months after posting. A post about Moodle ignited a vigorous debate many weeks after publication and a tip about the Joomla search component gets two or three new comments every week.
- Ease-of-use. The Internet can be a confusing place so we develop standards and conventions to make people feel at ease. Who on earth understands an archive? Why should a particular post by mothballed? When should a post be archived … after two months … after two years? Where do you go to visit a site’s archives? If there’s an easy answer to any of these questions, I’ve yet to hear it.