Specifically commenting on the historical archive (wayback machine) of the Internet Archive: Is there REALLY a need it?
Before everyone jumps on this with two feet let me clarify. I get that there is history here and history is good to preserve for educational purposes. The problem is judging what is significant enough to preserve and that is largely subjective. This leads to the default reaction of preserving everything. Do we really care what www.dickies.com used to look like? No offense to Dickies BBQ, I just picked them at random and found that I can see what their page looked like in 1996! This ability is admittedly cool and fun. It also aids in some limited real-world applications like law enforcement, auditing, historical reference, and perhaps as an occasional last-resort backup.
But is it really necessary? Isn't this the digital equivalent of hoarding--filling your home with everything you ever bought, are given, found in the street, or salvaged from a dumpster? We also do this with emails, Facebook, tweets, photo libraries, and software. For most of these things you can go back forever.
Is this an obsession with the past or an obsession with immortality? Do we fear the "death" of any piece of knowledge no matter how trivial? There is a philosophical question out there that asks, "What do we do when homes for the dead outnumber the homes for the living?" In other words if the whole world is one day covered in cemeteries where do the rest of us live? Granted the digital world is not constrained by a limited resource such as land. This is part of the problem. Physical things take up space and eventually you are forced to get rid of things when the exceed your personal threshold of what is "tidy" assuming you have one. Digital things just require a bigger hard drive that doesn't grow in dimension and you can get one of those anytime. Now you can keep 30,000 photos of your cat--most of them identical, most will never be looked at again, but never delete! (so said Google when Gmail Archive rolled out)
Not bounded by physical space we end up keeping digital content for the sake of keeping it even if the vast majority of it has no actual value to ourselves or society. Is the loss/death of stuff such an anathema to the human race that we just can't bare to let go?
The problem I see with things like the Internet Archive is that there is no curator. A curator of a museum has to decide what is significant and thereby keeps the museum to a manageable and consumable size. There are no bounds to this museum. Some might say that is a good thing. I suggest that it reflects a growing obsessions with things, digital or physical, in society that is leading us astray from things that really matter.
What are we going to do when the whole Internet is a giant cemetery?