Web cernes by Quentin Lobbé

I'm very interested in the memory of the Web. I'm fascinated by the fact that millions of sites and pages created in the 2000s simply don't exist today. They've been erased from the Web's surface. That's why I spend a lot of time exploring the Internet Archive databases. But I think that we lack effective visualization tools to represent the structure of dead websites. There is no visualization technique that allows us to do Web archaeology.

So I have created the ‘’Web cernes’’. Web cernes make it possible to represent the evolution of any website that has disappeared by using all the archives linked to its domain name in the Internet Archive database. It's a generic visualization: a python script retrieves all the archives linked to the domain name of the site we want to reconstruct. This scriptgenerates a JSON structure which will then be read and visualized by a D3.js interface.

My inspiration comes from the tree rings (‘’cerne’’ in French), where each concentric ring represents the growth of a tree over the years. I've reused this natural mechanism in my web cernes. Each concentric circle now represents one year's growth of an archived website. Web cernes must therefore be read from the center (birth of the site) to its border (disappearance of the site). The space between two circles represents the number of new pages created per year. Each page of the site is represented by a line (if it has been archived several times) or a dot (if it has only been archived once). These lines are distributed radially around the Web cernes. I've organized them in relation to each other based on the DOM HTML tree of the original urls of the site, so that we can quickly see the evolution of the main headings and sub-sections of these dead sites. It's possible to explore and interact with the web cernes, zooming in and out and hovering the mouse over a page to access its archived version in the Internet Archive.

The high-resolution image I'm sharing with you represents the evolving structure of the firsttuesday.com website (1999 - 2010), which was a very important site for connecting web entrepreneurs and investors in the early 2000s. The explorable link represents the entire network of the firsttuesday community of sites: the main site in the center and its regional chapters (.fr, .co.uk, .de, etc.) on the periphery.

When we display several Web cernes side by side, it's as if we're looking at website fossils and I think it's possible to compare these shapes to determine different growth and development properties of those dead websites.