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The Internet’s Librarian

by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander on March 9th, 02009

The economist is running a great profile on the heroic work of our good friend and ally Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive.  We used to share a building in the Presidio of SF with the Archive and I remember moving all the boxes of DLT tapes that would eventually become the invaluable  Wayback Machine.  Great to see this kind of coverage of an archivist who was visionary enough to archive when few knew there was even something there to save! (Excerpt below)

Mar 5th 2009
From The Economist print edition

Brewster Kahle wants to create a free, online collection of human knowledge. It sounds impossibly idealistic—but he is making progress

by Andy Potts

FOR a man who has set himself a seemingly impossible mission, Brewster Kahle seems remarkably laid back. Relaxing in the black leather recliner that serves as his office chair, his stockinged feet wriggling with evident enthusiasm, the founder of the Internet Archive explains what has driven him for more than a decade. “We are trying to build Alexandria 2.0,” says Mr Kahle with a wide-eyed, boyish grin. Sure, and plenty of people are trying to abolish hunger, too.

It would be easy to dismiss Mr Kahle as an idealistic fruitcake, but for one thing: he has an impressive record when it comes to setting lofty goals and then lining up the people and technology needed to get the job done. “Brewster is a visionary who looks at things differently,” says Carole Moore, chief librarian at the University of Toronto. “He is able to imagine doing things that everyone else thinks are impossible. But then he does them.”

Mr Kahle is an unostentatious millionaire who does not “wear his money on clothes”, as one acquaintance graciously puts it. But behind his dishevelled demeanour is a skilled technologist, an ardent activist and a successful serial entrepreneur. Having founded and sold technology companies to AOL and Amazon, he has now devoted himself to building a non-profit digital archive of free materials—books, films, concerts and so on—to rival the legendary Alexandrian library of antiquity. This has brought him into conflict with Google, the giant internet company which is pursuing a similar goal, but in a rather different (and more commercially oriented) way.  (read the rest)