Is obsolescence overrated?

Is obsolescence overrated?

I just wanted to point out a very interesting discussion on format obsolescence: The Half-Life of Digital Formats, A Puzzling Post From Rob Sharpe and Rob Sharpe’s Case For Format Migration. I think this is a very important issue, and I think we must address it as it cuts to the core of what the Planets tools are for. 

To summarise, David Rosenthal has asked for any good examples of widely-used file formats that were created later than 1995 and have since become obsolete. So far, no-one has been able to suggest a single ‘obsolete’ format that holds up to scrutiny. If you’ve got a good example of an obsolete format, please contribute to that discussion.

I started writing my response to this issue, but it rapidly turned out to be too complex to cover in a single blog post. Overall, I agree that obsolecense should be treated as the exception rather than the norm, and indeed our preservation strategies at the British Library reflect that stance. However, I think there are some important cases where this approach may not be sufficient. Futhermore, even when obsolescence is not an issue, there are still very many cases where I need better tools in order to manage our content, and think the OPF can help to ensure that suitable high-quality tools are available.

I’ll come back to these two issues in some follow-up blogs, but for now, I’ll wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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