Brewster Lurton Kahle (/kl/ KAYL;[4] born October 21, 1960)[2] is an American digital librarian,[5] computer engineer, Internet entrepreneur, and advocate of universal access to all knowledge. In 1996, Kahle founded the Internet Archive and co-founded Alexa Internet. In 2012, he was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.[4]

Brewster Kahle
Kahle in 2015
Brewster Lurton Kahle[1]

(1960-10-21) October 21, 1960 (age 63)[2]
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology (BS)
Occupation(s)Digital librarian
Computer engineer
Internet entrepreneur
Employer(s)Internet Archive, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Known forDevelopment of WAIS
Co-founder of Alexa Internet
Founder of Internet Archive
SpouseMary Austin

Life and career


Kahle was born in New York City and raised in Scarsdale, New York, the son of Margaret Mary (Lurton) and Robert Vinton Kahle, a mechanical engineer.[6][7] He went to Scarsdale High School. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science in computer science and engineering, where he was a member of the Chi Phi Fraternity.[8][9] The emphasis of his studies was artificial intelligence; he studied under Marvin Minsky and W. Daniel Hillis.[8]

After graduation, he joined the Thinking Machines team, where he was the lead engineer on the company's main product, the Connection Machine, for six years (1983–1989).[10] There, he and others developed the WAIS system, the first Internet distributed search and document retrieval system, a precursor to the World Wide Web.[10][11] In 1992, he co-founded, with Bruce Gilliat, WAIS, Inc. (sold to AOL in 1995 for $15 million[12]), and, in 1996, Alexa Internet[11][13] (sold to in 1999[14] for $250 million in stock[15]). At the same time as he started Alexa, he founded the Internet Archive, which he continues to direct. In 2001, he implemented the Wayback Machine, which allows public access to the World Wide Web archive that the Internet Archive has been gathering since 1996.[10][11] Kahle was inspired to create the Wayback Machine after visiting the offices of Alta Vista, where he was struck by the immensity of the task being undertaken and achieved: to store and index everything that was on the Web. Kahle states: "I was standing there, looking at this machine that was the size of five or six Coke machines, and there was an 'aha moment' that said, 'You can do everything.'"[16]

Kahle was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering (2010) for archiving, and making available, all forms of digital information. He is also a member of the Internet Hall of Fame, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves on the boards of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, the European Archive (now Internet memory) and the Television Archive. He is a member of the advisory board of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program of the Library of Congress, and is a member of the National Science Foundation Advisory Committee for Cyberinfrastructure. In 2010 he was given an honorary doctorate in computer science from Simmons College, where he studied library science in the 1980s.

Kahle and his wife, Mary Austin, run the Kahle/Austin Foundation. The Foundation supports the Free Software Foundation for its GNU Project,[17] among other projects, with a total giving of about $4.5 million in 2011.[18]

In 2012, Kahle and banking veteran Jordan Modell established Internet Archive Federal Credit Union to serve people in New Brunswick, N.J. and Highland Park, New Jersey, as well as participants in programs that alleviate poverty in those areas.[19] The credit union voluntarily liquidated in 2015.[20]

Digitization advocacy

Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive talks about archiving operations in 2013.

Kahle has been critical of Google's book digitization, especially of Google's exclusivity in restricting other search engines' digital access to the books they archive. In a 2011 talk Kahle described Google's 'snippet' feature as a means of tiptoeing around copyright issues, and expressed his frustration with the lack of a decent lending system for digital materials. He said the digital transition has moved from local control to central control, non-profit to for-profit, diverse to homogeneous, and from "ruled by law" to "ruled by contract". Kahle stated that even public-domain material published before 1923, and not bound by copyright law, is still bound by Google's contracts and requires permission to be distributed or copied. Kahle reasoned that this trend has emerged for a number of reasons: distribution of information favoring centralization, the economic cost of digitizing books, the issue of library staff without the technical knowledge to build these services, and the decision of administrators to outsource information services.[21]

Kahle advocated in 2009:

It's not that expensive. For the cost of 60 miles of highway, we can have a 10 million-book digital library available to a generation that is growing up reading on-screen. Our job is to put the best works of humankind within reach of that generation. Through a simple Web search, a student researching the life of John F. Kennedy should be able to find books from many libraries, and many booksellers—and not be limited to one private library whose titles are available for a fee, controlled by a corporation that can dictate what we are allowed to read.[22]

Other benefits of digitization


In 1997, Kahle explained that apart from the value for historians' use of these digital archives, they might also help resolve some common infrastructure complaints about the Internet, such as adding reliability to "404 Document not found" errors, contextualizing information to make it more trustworthy, and maintaining navigation to aid in finding related content. Kahle also explained the importance of packaging enough meta-data (information about the information) into the archive, since it is unknown what future researchers will be interested in, and that it might be more problematic to find data than to preserve it.[23]

Physical media


"Knowledge lives in lots of different forms over time," Kahle said in 2011. "First it was in people's memories, then it was in manuscripts, then printed books, then microfilm, CD-ROMs, now on the digital internet. Each one of these generations is very important." Voicing a strong reaction to the idea of books simply being thrown away, and inspired by the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Kahle envisioned collecting one physical copy of every book ever published. "We're not going to get there, but that's our goal," he said. "We want to see books live forever." Pointing out that even digital books have a physical home on a hard drive somewhere, he sees saving the physical artifacts of information storage as a way to hedge against the uncertainty of the future. (Alongside the books, Kahle plans to store the Internet Archive's old servers, which were replaced in 2010.) He began by having conventional shipping containers modified as climate-controlled storage units. Each container can hold about 40,000 volumes, the size of a branch library. As of 2011, Kahle had gathered about 500,000 books. He thinks the warehouse is large enough to hold about a million titles, with each one given a barcode that identifies the cardboard box, pallet and shipping container in which it resides. A given book may be retrieved in about an hour, not to be loaned out but to be used to verify contents recorded in another medium. Book preservation experts commented he will have to contend with vermin and about a century's worth of books printed on wood pulp paper that disintegrates over time because of its own acidity. Peter Hanff, deputy director of UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library, said that just keeping the books on the west coast of the US will save them from the climate fluctuations that are the norm in other parts of the country.[24]

Awards and appointments


See also



  1. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths KAHLE, MARGARET LURTON". The New York Times. March 6, 1998. Archived from the original on January 8, 2021. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Alexa Internet profile Archived July 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, via accessed November 24, 2010
  3. ^ "Archiving the Internet / Brewster Kahle makes digital snapshots of Web". SFGate. May 7, 1999. Archived from the original on April 2, 2019. Retrieved January 29, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Schwartz, John (October 29, 2001). "New Economy; A library of Web pages that warms the cockles of the wired heart and beats the Library of Congress for sheer volume". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 9, 2023.
  5. ^ Benny Evangelista (October 13, 2012). "Brewster Kahle's Internet Archive". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on December 25, 2019. Retrieved October 13, 2012.
  6. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths KAHLE, ROBERT VINTON". The New York Times. May 2, 2001. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on February 5, 2020. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
  7. ^ A Library as Big as the World, Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  8. ^ a b About Archived August 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Brewster Kahle's Blog. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  9. ^ Internet Nostalgia | MIT Admissions Archived November 21, 2019, at the Wayback Machine MIT Admissions. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  10. ^ a b c Benton, Joshua (March 24, 2022). "After 25 years, Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive are still working to democratize knowledge". Nieman Lab. Archived from the original on March 24, 2022. Retrieved October 22, 2022.
  11. ^ a b c "Brewster Kahle and Tony Marx: The Internet Archive at 25". New York Public Library. April 25, 2022. Archived from the original on October 22, 2022. Retrieved October 22, 2022.
  12. ^ "AOL Buys Everyone". June 5, 1995. Archived from the original on May 24, 2017. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  13. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn (August 5, 2011). "Archiving every book ever published". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 24, 2019. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  14. ^ "Agreement and Plan of Merger - Inc. and Alexa Internet". Findlaw. Archived from the original on April 19, 2019. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  15. ^ Hardy, Quentin. "The Big Deal: Brewster Kahle". Forbes. Retrieved February 7, 2024.
  16. ^ TONG, JUDY (September 8, 2002). "RESPONSIBLE PARTY – BREWSTER KAHLE; A Library Of the Web, On the Web". New York Times. Archived from the original on February 20, 2011. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  17. ^ "Thank GNUs 2011". Free Software Foundation. Archived from the original on October 18, 2019. Retrieved January 19, 2012.
  18. ^ "Kahle/Austin Foundation | Find Grantmakers & Nonprofit Funders | Foundation Directory Online". Archived from the original on January 8, 2021. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
  19. ^ Morrison, David (September 5, 2012). "Internet Pioneer, Former Banker Behind Newest CU". Credit Union Times. p. 3. Archived from the original on November 6, 2018. Retrieved September 4, 2012.
  20. ^ Strozniak, Peter (December 18, 2015). "Death of a Credit Union: Internet Archive FCU Voluntarily Liquidates". Credit Union Times. Archived from the original on November 6, 2018. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
  21. ^ Brewster Kahle. Brewster Kahle's Michigan Talk (Videotape). Ann Arbor, MI at the John Seely Brown Symposium: Archived from the original (SWF FLV FLASH OGG MPEG4 WMA WindowsMedia) on August 18, 2011. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  22. ^ Singel, Ryan (May 19, 2009). "Stop the Google Library, Net's Librarian Says". Wired. Archived from the original on January 8, 2021. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  23. ^ Kahle, Brewster (March 1997). "Archiving the Internet". Scientific American. Archived from the original on April 3, 2012. Retrieved August 19, 2011.
  24. ^ "Internet Archive founder turns to new information storage device – the book". The Guardian. August 1, 2011. Archived from the original on June 19, 2012. Retrieved August 22, 2012. Brewster Kahle, the man behind a project to file every webpage, now wants to gather one copy of every published book
  25. ^ "Paul Evan Peters 2004 Award Winner: Brewster Kahle",
  26. ^ "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World" Archived April 19, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Utne Reader, November–December 2009
  27. ^ "Current Honorary Degree Recipients: Spring 2010 Convocation" Archived November 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, University of Alberta
  28. ^ "Zoia_Horn_Intellectual_Freedom_Award". Archived from the original on November 20, 2010.
  29. ^ Kaplan, Jeff (January 4, 2011). "Brewster Kahle receives the Zoia Horn Intellectual Freedom Award | Internet Archive Blogs".
  30. ^ 2012 Inductees Archived April 26, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Internet Hall of Fame website. Last accessed September 26, 2017
  31. ^ JCARMICHAEL (May 14, 2013). "Brewster Kahle to be Honored with 2013 LITA/Library Hi Tech Award". Archived from the original on January 8, 2021. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
  32. ^ DPC. "Brewster Kahle awarded Digital Preservation Coalition Fellowship". YouTube. DPC. Retrieved April 30, 2024.

Further reading