Herbert Van de Sompel

Herbert Van de Sompel graduated in Mathematics and Computer Science at Ghent University (Belgium), and in 2000 obtained a Ph.D. in Communication Science there. For many years, he headed Library Automation at Ghent University. After leaving Ghent in 2000, he was Visiting Professor in Computer Science at Cornell University, and Director of e-Strategy and Programmes at the British Library. Currently, he is the team leader of the Prototyping Team at the Research Library of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Herbert will present “Memento: Time Travel for the Web” during the media break-out session of the iMinds conference.

While the days of human time travel as described in many a science fiction novel are yet to come, time travel on the Web has recently become a reality thanks to the Memento project. In essence, Memento adds a time dimension to the Web: enter the Web address of a resource in your browser and set a time slider to a desired moment in the Web’s past, and see what the resource looked like around that time.

Technically, Memento achieves this by (a) Leveraging systems that host archival Web content, including Web archives, content management systems, and software versioning systems; (b) Extending the Web’s most commonly used protocol – HTTP – with the capability to specify a datetime in protocol requests, and by applying an existing HTTP capability – content negotiation – in a new dimension: time. The result is a Web in which navigating the past is as seamless as navigating the present.

The Memento concepts have attracted significant international attention since they were first published in November 2009, and compliant tools are already emerging. For example, at the client side there is the MementoFox add-on for FireFox, and a Memento app for Android; at the server side, there is a plug-in for MediaWiki servers, and the Wayback software that is widely used by Web archives, worldwide, was recently enhanced with Memento support.

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