One of the best things about the web — its constantly evolving, easily modifiable nature — can also be one of its most frustrating faults. Because usually when a website modifies its content, any changes overwrite what came before it, sometimes without leaving a trace of the old content. Perpetually.com, a new site launching today at TechCrunch50, is looking to solve this problem by offering companies a way to easily back up their sites.
The company says that every year, 5-8% of ‘bookmarked’ content vanishes from the web as pages are modified and removed. Perpetually helps solve this problem by recording a history of every change on your site. And Perpetually doesn’t just keep a copy of this content in an ugly search engine archive — you can actually view the content in context, as it originally appeared on the site. You can even select a specific portion of a site that you’d like to focus on and scroll through its history in-line with the rest of the page. The interface is very slick, and is reminiscent of what you’ll find with Apple’s Time Machine backup software. You can also browse through a visual history of your website using an interface that’s similar to Apple’s Cover Flow feature.
To get started, companies just have to tell the Perpetually.com service to start monitoring their sites, and the service will do the rest. There’s no software or plugins to install. At this point the service doesn’t allow you to index content behind a password wall, though it sounds like this may be available in the future. Customers can elect to keep their records totally private, for peace of mind. However, users can also use the software to monitor changes on publicly available sites.
Of course, there are already some well-established efforts to create a historical record of the web, like the Internet Archive‘s WayBack Machine. But these have their limitations: for one, it’s not really feasible for services like this to track every change on a site, as the processing and space costs would be extreme.
The company already has some impressive clients, including the design team over at The Wall Street Journal.
Q&A with panelists Dick Costolo, Reid Hoffman, Sean Parker, Mike Schroepfer, and Robert Scoble:
RH: it would be valuable to create configured accounts. The freemium could be try it for two weeks then pay. It’s better to let users test something out before paying.
SP: you are going to need the benefits of the freemium model.
A: Freemium is not what we have today.
RS: The business challenge will be convincing the New York Times to use this.
RS: How does the customers ad dollars get protecting (the publisher).
Jason: HAve you considered making this a tool that the NYTimes can make public on their site that lets people see past homepages.
A; Its up to the publisher to do that. We are open to that.
TC50:Perpetually creates a personalized Internet archive VentureBeat.