Labelling BBC Online's archived websites
Managing Editor, BBC Online
As I write, a team from BBC Future Media is in the middle of a project to move millions of pages of BBC Online archive content to a new home. The operation will allow us to switch off an obsolete layer of technology, and secure access to the archive for years to come.
The BBC treats its online archive with care. We are committed to maintaining users’ access to a vast amount of BBC content stretching back over years of BBC Online’s output, from text articles to message boards, audio and video and more.
However, maintaining access to that archive is different to maintaining the content itself, which means that much of the archive is, in effect, frozen in time: we do not update the content any more.
In those cases, we’ve put a clear label on the page warning this is the case, and users should be aware that the information provided on these pages may be out of date, or otherwise inaccurate due to the passage of time.
A mothballing banner on an archived page
The date you see in the banner on one of those pages is calculated automatically, using the last-published date our systems hold. On some occasions, that date will not reflect when the actual content changed - for instance, where all or part of the page has content updated by automated systems which might still be running (or continued running after the final publication date).
Why don’t we update some types of content any more?
There are a number of potential reasons; the programme or series to which the content relates might have ended, the events to which it relates have come to a close or are now less noteworthy, or because the content or sites are not regarded as core to BBC Online’s proposition (see Ian Hunter's post from 2011).
These pages are not deleted because, often, they still have value - either as a piece of content that’s of continuing use, or because the information they contain might be of historical interest later. It also may be the case that users have bookmarked or shared those pages and we don’t want to break those links.
For technical or other reasons, it may also be that some pages are incomplete, or some kinds of content no longer function. Again, to maintain as much of the archive as possible, we have chosen to leave these partially-complete pages online.
Normally, we don’t delete content unless it presents a risk of causing harm or damage today. There are strict guidelines around the alteration or removal of content from BBC Online, which you can read here.
In general, once a piece of content is published on BBC Online, it should stay there, and we’re committed to making sure it remains available for generations to come.
If you have any queries or complaints about a part of the BBC Archive, you can find contact information on the BBC's complaints website.
Neil McIntosh is Managing Editor, BBC Online