This month, Automattic had the privilege of working with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (BKC) to migrate their early 2000s blogging platform over to our Pressable infrastructure. (Pressable is a small host Automattic runs to develop our WP.cloud infrastructure, it gets you all the performance and security of our high-end WP.com plans, but with a more plain-vanilla WP interface.)
The Harvard Blogs network that the Center launched back in 2003 was an important milestone in internet history. It provided a platform for over 1,500 high-impact bloggers—including Harvard students, faculty, fellows, staff, and alumni—to publish and engage in discussion.
We were alerted to BKC’s plans to decommission blogs.harvard.edu by none other than Dave Winer, the pioneering developer behind blogging, RSS, and podcasting, and a Berkman Center fellow from 2003-2004. As BKC shared in their announcement, the network played a formative role for many now-influential bloggers and internet figures. It also contributed to the rise of podcasting and projects like Ushahidi.
When we learned BKC planned to retire the Harvard Blogs platform, we wanted to ensure this valuable archive of early internet culture was preserved. We offered to host the network’s blogs indefinitely so they can remain publicly accessible for years to come.
The Harvard Blogs multisite consisted of around 1,500 blogs. To move it over, we systematically migrated the archive to our servers and then upgraded the network to the latest version of WordPress (we also updated a handful of plugins and themes and tested the updated versions against the original sites hosted by Harvard).
Much like our recent unveiling of the 100 Year Plan for WordPress.com, the preservation of the Harvard Blogs archive demonstrates Automattic’s commitment to protect vital pieces of internet history and culture for generations to come. By preserving these blogs, we hope to inspire future generations of online voices.
There was something really nice about the neighborhood of blogs the Harvard blog network provided that I hope they or another university tries again sometime. Harvard is now 387 years old, I hope these blogs last at least that much longer (that would be 2,410 AD!).