Old versions are cultural artifacts

If you’ve been browsing around the site for a while, you’ll note that some old versions simply don’t function anymore. So why do we have them?

At OldVersion.com, we believe that software is a cultural artifact. Therefore, we made a decision to archive all software regardless if it’s working or not.

Frustrated user of old versions

OldVersion.com is a virtual museum for old software. If you go to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia — they don’t take down the artifacts from civilizations which can no longer server any utilitarian purpose. Instead, it is marveled at as a hallmark of that particular civilization’s achievements. Software are the artifacts of our modern age.

Aliens finding Windows 95!

Studying the progression of old versions can tell us about trends in the advertising market, user-interface models and the progression of hardware development. There is academic, historic and cultural use of old versions of software. This is a whole field that is yet to be explored and through the help of our archive it is now possible. For instance, what can we extrapolate from data that says 88% of a certain region is using Firefox 3.6.12? Could it be that this area has a lower then median average income? Is the population more tech savvy? Are there large institutions which are in need of an upgrade infrastructure? In the coming months on our blog, we will be exploring some of these questions. If this is something you’re interested in, please contact us.

Just as archive.org can show us how the web has been evolving over the past 20 years, oldversion.com aims to accomplish the same mission through software. We’re not just interested in web trends, but trends in different civilizations of the different parts of the world. If an old version is not working, we still keep it on our site for passionate techies, historians and researchers to delve into.

Wouldn’t it be great if Yahoo Messenger 3.0 was still able to connect to the central servers and you had a 1.3MB piece of software that did all the work you needed it to? A tech-savvy individual might be able to investigate what tweaks one can make to the software to make it function again. It is the role of OldVersion.com to allow the facilitation and collaboration of these types of endeavors.

What stories can historians tell about our modern society by studying old versions of software? Perhaps we can trace the origins of connectivity to an old piece of software and trace its evolution. Sometimes it’s just fun to trace the history of something. Historians can utilize non-working versions to craft stories about the progression of society. At OldVersion.com, one of our missions is to open up anthropological dialogue in this new emerging field.

Existing software companies can utilize our data on older versions of software to improve their products. If we see a spike in people downgrading Skype, for instance – then that tells the developers that perhaps they should rethink the UI or some of the new ‘padded’ features that were originally developed to make things easier for the end-user. We’ve seen entire companies go out of business because of misguided iterations and our site can help those companies correct course before it’s too late.

This is your project too. Together let’s build a resource that will do its part to make the world a little more equal and sane.

Alexander Levine is the founder of OldVersion.com. He started the site in 2001 after noticing that the new version of Napster used up all his system resources. You can follow his personal Twitter at @avlevine

2 Comments on "Old versions are cultural artifacts"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Awesome writeup.

  2. Mike says:

    The Old Versions of Any program are something important that must be preserved. Thanks a Lot for all the Good Apps.

Got something to say? Go for it!

*