Humans produce digital data every minute, and it’s still an open question whether we should be archiving all of it—and, if so, how. For the team behind Hi.co, a publishing platform that will stop accepting new submissions on Sept. 1, the decision was clear. Archiving everything from the site, which publishes writing about places around the world, felt like a moral imperative. So the group made an elaborate and awesome plan.
Co-founder Craig Mod explains on Medium that every Hi.co user’s submissions will be available for export (as they are now), while a complete archive of the site will migrate to the domain hitotoki.org, where it will live for at least 10 years, if not longer. Here’s the cool part: The complete data trove will be etched onto at least five 2-inch–by–2-inch nickel plates that can withstand exposure to fire and salt water to last for 10,000 years.
These aren’t DVDs or flash drives that store binary data, though. Norsam Technologies and Los Alamos Laboratories will use a special ion-etching process to physically transfer every word and image onto the nickel plates. It’s not the type of thing you can peruse with the naked eye, but you will be able to read the plates with an optical microscope. You keep one of those on you at all times, right?
The team will produce at least five plates, and they will be housed by libraries and museums around the world for their 10,000–year lives. The Library of Congress has already agreed to be one of the “stewards.”
We understand the moral duty we took on in creating Hi.co — in opening it up to submissions and user generated content. There was an implicit pact: You give us your stories about place, and we’ll give you a place to put your stories. … We do not take this moral duty lightly.
Hi.Co is still encouraging signups and accepting submissions to its current trove of more than 2 million words and 14,000 photographs published about 3,000 cities worldwide. The team will use proceeds from selling the Hi.co domain name to fund the archival process that will begin immediately after Sept. 1.
Online interactions are often fleeting and disposable, but that doesn’t have to be the only approach to the digital world. Undertakings like the Future Library project are all about exploring the relationship between content and time. As Mod puts it, “Hi.co is not Snapchat.”