Tool Review Webrecorder and Webrecorder Player

Webrecorder is an online tool that allows users to archive web materials of their choice. The website itself is easy to navigate, and it allows for simple organization of projects. Users can choose a webpage, open a browser on Webrecorder’s online platform, and record individual pages of larger websites. The ease of access and speed of use makes Webrecorder a useful tool for web archiving, as it takes little to no technical knowledge to operate and the user can archive many web pages in a short period of time. However, Webrecorder as it exists as a website is not always reliable. Several times when I have tried to visit the site it has either been unable to load or it lags during use.

Though the user has control over which pages they want to archive, the archiving process is not always straightforward. Websites with many pages and frequent changes would take great care and strategy to archive, because each article or link must be opened and archived independently of the larger pages of material. For example, I attempted to archive the NPR website, and while I was able to capture the general layout of the site and some of its prominent posts, the mass amounts of information held in news articles, external links, and advertisements would take hours of work to archive. Considering a site like NRP undergoes significant changes daily, a user would need to make frequent efforts to capture near-constant changes.

After the archiving is finished, the user can save the pages from a particular website as a WARC file that they can then view in Webrecorder’s downloadable application, Webrecorder Player. Webrecorder Player is similarly easy to use, but it would be useful if it existed on the Webrecorder website rather than as an external application, so that all aspects of the archiving process could take place on the same platform.

While it seems to function more reliably than the Webrecorder site, the application is inconsistent in its ability to show some of the images captured during the archiving process, so even if a user archives a page in its entirety it may not be properly preserved in a way that the user can view.

While Webrecorder falls short on larger websites, it is most useful for archiving sites with fewer pages and infrequent changes. I tried to archive “Nunneries of Bhutan,” which is a website based on mapping and providing information about the various nunneries that exist in Bhutan. This site has less than 50 pages and remains relatively static with its information and appearance. I was able to archive all of the main sections of the website in minutes, and with a little additional effort I could archive the entire site. While I had Java-related issues with the Player when I tried to archive NPR’s website, the Player was able to display all of the images on the “Nunneries of Bhutan” site, and it was able to display an interactive map.

Over all, Webrecorder is a useful tool for web archiving primarily because it is free and easy to use. However, the website best serves users who are undertaking smaller archiving projects.

Written on December 15, 2019