Web Archive FAQs

Find out the answers to Frequently Asked Questions about web archiving

What is the Web Archive?

Parliament’s Web Archive is a collection of snapshots capturing the content of the websites of Parliament, at various points, over time.

Each snapshot reflects what the website looked like on the day it was taken.

How often do the websites get archived?

The first snapshot was taken in July 2009, and we currently take 3 snapshots per year, to make sure we have a record of the changing information and style of Parliament’s websites.

How many websites have been captured?

Parliament currently has about 30 different websites, but the Web Archive collection contains more than that (around 37), because it also has snapshots from older websites that no longer exist.

Why do some websites no longer exist?

As Parliament’s web presence develops over time, inevitably some websites will either be closed or content will be moved to other websites.

This is a normal aspect of the changing nature of the web, and one of the benefits of having a web archiving policy is to ensure the preservation of content that may no longer exist on the live web.

How do I view an archived website?

The Web Archive provides lists of websites, which have been archived, split into several categories.

Within each category there is a list of archived websites or section, each with a link to the archived snapshots.

Click on the link to get to the index page, which shows every snapshot for that website or section, organised according to the date it was captured.

Click on a date to view the snapshot itself. The snapshot can be viewed and navigated in a similar way as a live website.

What is the index page?

The index page displays every snapshot, which has been captured for that website or section, arranged in date order.

Clicking on the date you would like to see will lead directly to the relevant snapshot.

The index page also includes the URL that was ‘crawled’. Clicking on this link will result in one of the following:

  • You will get the live version of the same website, which can be compared with the snapshots
  • You get an error message, if the URL that was crawled is no longer in use (the website is not live anymore)
  • You get to a live website, but it isn’t the same website as the snapshots, the content having changed
  • You get automatically redirected to a new URL where the live website is now located

How do I browse pages within a snapshot?

Follow links within the website to access content on each page.

All links to pages within the website should be working, and it should be possible to view each page of the archived website.

You cannot follow links to other websites, though, as these will not have been archived. Also, you cannot use search boxes to find content.

How are the archived snapshots different to live web pages?

They are very similar, and can be navigated by following links within the website, just as you would do with a live website. There are some differences, though.

You cannot click on links to other websites (external links), as these won’t have been archived – you will get an error message if you do so. Also, you cannot use search boxes to find content – the only way to find content is by following links.

There will be a banner across the top of each page of the archived snapshot, showing you that you are not looking at the live website. This banner also provides links to view other snapshots of the same website.

Please remember that the content being displayed is what would have been seen on the day the snapshot was taken, therefore some phrases e.g. 'two months ago', need to be understood in that context.

Some pages or links don’t work – why is that?

There are several reasons why some things might not work:

  • Links to websites not owned by Parliament (external links) will fail, since these websites have not been archived by us.
  • Search boxes (and other interactive functions) cannot be used within archived websites – you can only navigate by browsing and clicking on links. This is because free text search functionality, where a user types a word into a search box, cannot be replicated by current web archiving technology.
  • Other limitations to current web archiving technology mean that certain websites may have limited content captured. This may include dynamic content on websites like YouTube and Facebook. In these cases, the way the website is designed and structured prevents us from capturing all the information.

We are currently working to improve the quality of what can be archived, so future snapshots will be even more complete than existing ones.

Why do we need to archive websites?

There are many reasons why it is worth archiving our websites in Parliament.

Firstly, by capturing regular snapshots of content, we can provide access to information that may be taken down from the live web. In years to come, users may well wish to access data that once existed online, but no longer does.

The internet is such a rapidly changing technology that it is useful to capture it frequently – already we can track the changes over time in how Parliament interacts with people online, and this provides a fascinating glimpse into the recent past.

Web accessibility and design standards change rapidly, as can be seen by comparing websites from 2 years ago with those of today.

The fact that we can show exactly what a webpage looked like on a particular day in history may provide more of an insight than simply retaining a copy of a document which was available online. We can see the whole user experience, and this may provide context to the documentation.

How do I know when I am looking at an archived web page?

Every archived web page should have a dark blue banner across the top of the page, which explains that it is an archived rather than a live page. This is very important, so that users do not get confused between the live web and the archive collection.

Who is the European Archive?

Parliament currently has a contract with the European Archive (also known as the Internet Memory Foundation), who carry out the web archiving on our behalf. They capture the snapshots, and provide them to us for presentation online.

What other web archive collections are there?

There are many other organisations, nationally and internationally, who archive web pages. These include the Internet Archive, the British Library and the UK National Archives.

I can’t find what I’m looking for – what should I do?

It may be that the website you are looking for is not within scope for the Web Archive. See the A-Z list for the complete list of websites that we have captured.

If you are looking for a particular page within a website that we have captured, it may be that it is in a new location on the live website, and previously was located in a different part of the website, or on a different website. You can browse by following links within the website, to try and locate the page you want. 

It may be that the information you are looking for has not been captured for technical reasons – particularly if it is only accessible via user interaction e.g. entering a word into a search box. In such cases, we are investigating alternative methods to archive content.

If you wish to enquire about specific content or pages that you are unable to locate, please email digitalpreservation@parliament.uk.

Related Information

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