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Keep the Web unbroken, with Amber

When sites go down, they don’t take the links to them with them. So, your posts now point to 404s. That’s not just an inconvenience. It’s Web entropy and over time it will render the Web less and less useful and even less intelligible.

Amber fights Web entropy. It’s a plugin for WordPress or Drupal that automatically takes a snapshot of whatever you’re linking to. If the linked site goes down — or is taken down by a government that doesn’t like what it’s saying — your readers will still be able to read what was there when you linked to it.

For example, this is a page that I posted and then took down. It was here: It’s not there now. But if you hover over the link, Amber shows you what you’d otherwise be missing.

Amber’s pedigree literally could not be better. It’s a project from the Berkman Center, from an idea cooked up by Jonathan Zittrain and Tim Berners-Lee. It is a fully distributed system, thus helping to re-decentralize the Web, although you can opt to store the page images at sites like the Internet Archive,, and Amazon AWS.

What are you waiting for?



If you install Amber and it’s not working, make sure that you’ve created a folder called “amber” in your WordPress “uploads” directory: /wp-content/uploads/amber.

8 Responses to “Keep the Web unbroken, with Amber”

  1. Thanks for the info David. The link to Amber is actually

  2. Well, I was close. Does that count? :)

    I’ve fixed it. Thanks for letting me know.

  3. I’m hugely in favor of things that address the fabric of the web that is broken when web content disappears, and was curious to see how it works. Sadly I read this in my RSS reader where Amber wont work, and here in my browser it appears that Amber needs Amber?

    It would help if the Amber site had a demo itself.

    Not to criticize the Big Names Associated With this Project, but for me, questions are:

    * Since I cannot see a snapshot, I am hoping that it’s a working HTML snapshot, not an image snapshot
    * It will only work on sites that install a plugin for new content going forward? What about all the Stuff That Came Before?
    * Storage on the same server tanks if the blog is deleted, so back to square 1. What happens if I nuke my AWS account? Seems like Internet Archive is best destination.

    What I’ve wished is if 404 pages or browsers could offer more than an expression of “Not Found” which accompanied by the disappointment, is obvious and not useful. What if browsers, or an extension, or someway all 404s (that seems undoable) could provide redirect/link options to that URL in the Internet Archive? That would fill a lot of past gaps AND would tune a lot of people who never heard of it.

    Of course if web content creators were better stewards of content…. oh bother.

  4. First, I think I’ve misconfigured it.

    I don’t know if Amber gives an HTML snapshot or something more like a screen capture; I was hoping to learn that by installing it. It’s obviously not an easy issue. — another Zittrain project — wrestled with this question. Archiving dynamic Web sites isn’t trivial, as you know.

    Perma and Amber take a LOCKSS approach: lots of copies keep stuff safe. If everyone decides to use, then there’s a single point of failure, although it’s a pretty damn robust point. If people keep copies on their own servers, then we get LOCKSS.

    I’m excited about Amber in part because it takes this distributed approach.

  5. Makes sense, will give it a try on my WP sites. Thanks.

    Still getting 404s on amber.js and amber.css

  6. […] this David Weinberger post about amber plugin for WordPress.…wonder if it is a weak reference to Fringe […]

  7. Cool. This could be something to consider for my website.

  8. Very good post. Thanks for sharing.

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