Internet for everyone: start of the web archiving project homepages Dutch provider XS4ALL (1993-2001)

12 December 2019 - “Web incunables” can be defined as those websites which were published in the first stage of the world wide web between 1990 and 1998. The early sites of the 1990s were made at the beginning of publishing texts on the web and mark the frontier between analogue prints on paper and digital publications on the web. The first Dutch homepage and web incunable was put online in 1993: the same year one of the oldest Dutch internet provider XS4ALL (“Access for All”) started to offer its services to customers for the first time. This provider was founded by hackers and techno-anarchists. It attracted a large group of creative Dutch internet pioneers after the start in May 1993 who have built at least 10,000 homepages between 1993 and 2001. A large part is still online in some form.

We can consider the remaining XS4ALL-homepages as the most interesting born digital Dutch heritage collection still online. As XS4ALL was promoting and facilitating the building of these sites, the early web designers, artists, activists, writers and scientists were eagerly experimenting with the possibilities of the new medium in content, design and functionality. Many customers remained loyal to this provider till now. Due to this, a large amount of homepages of the early Dutch web can still be found at this provider. This heritage is however in danger. Dutch telephone company KPN took XS4ALL over in 1998 and announced in January 2019 to end this brand in near future. This is the reason why Koninklijke Bibliotheek - National Library of the Netherlands (KB-NL) started a web archiving project the same year to identify and rescue as much web incunables and early homepages as possible which are still hosted by this provider.

Among the archived homepages we can find the first Dutch interactive 3D house, a virtual metro line for the famous digital city of Amsterdam, the “Stone Age Computer” and the first Dutch online literature magazine. Next to the homepages, also other material will be preserved, like metadata, link clouds, context information for future research on the history of the Dutch web.

This project was generously sponsored by SIDN-fonds (SIDN Fund) and Stichting Internet4ALL. SIDN Fund stands for ‘a strong internet for all’. They provide financial support to ideas and projects that aim to make the internet stronger or that use the internet in innovative ways. By doing so, SIDN Fund wants to help increase the social impact of the internet in the Netherlands. SIDN Fund is an independent foundation established by SIDN, the foundation for internet domain registration in the Netherlands.