Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Emerging Technology from the arXiv

A View from Emerging Technology from the arXiv

How to Carbon-Date a Web Page

If a Web page lacks a time stamp, how do you know when it was created? A new Web application could help.

  • April 22, 2013

Ever needed to know the age of a Web page only to discover that it lacks a time stamp saying when it was published?

If so, then the work of Hany SalahEldeen and Michael Nelson at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, may be of interest. These guys have created a Web application called Carbon Date that works out the creation date of a page by searching for the earliest evidence of its existence.

The process is straightforward. Many Web pages end up being recorded in various ways soon after they are created. For example, it’s easy to check Bitly to see the first time that anybody shortened the URL in question, or to use Topsy to check the first date that anybody tweeted the URL. Then there is Memento, which reveals the first time the URL was recorded on a Web archive. Google can also reveal the first time the page was indexed, and even the last-modified HTTP response header of the page itself shows when it was last changed.

Each of these is straightforward to check by itself, but checking them all to find the earliest date is time-consuming.  Carbon Date automates the process. 

SalahEldeen and Nelson say their new tool works reasonably well.  They tested it on a set of 1200 Web pages for which the creation date was already known. “We were able to estimate a creation date for 75.90 percent of the resources, with 32.78 percent having the correct value,” they say.

That’s not quite as accurate as a researcher or journalist might like, but it’s a start. If you wanto to test it yourself, SalahEldeen and Nelson say they’ve made Carbon Date available at http://cd.cs.odu.edu/cd/<YOUR_URL_HERE>. (However, at the time of writing it did not appear to be working.)

Update 23 April:  link updated and now working. See comment below. The service gives the estimated date of creation of www.technologyreview.com as October 2001. The historians at Tech Review tell me they first started using the domain in February 2001, so that’s not far off.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1304.5213 :Carbon Dating The Web: Estimating the Age of Web Resources

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Connectivity

What it means to be constantly connected with each other and vast sources of information.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look: exclusive early access to important stories, before they’re available to anyone else

    Insider Conversations: listen in on in-depth calls between our editors and today’s thought leaders

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.