WebCite is a service that archives webpages on demand. Authors can subsequently cite the archived webpages through WebCite in addition to citing the original URL of the webpage. Readers are able to retrieve the archived webpages indefinitely, without regard to whether the original webpage is revised or removed ("linkrot"). Such archiving is especially important in the academic context. WebCite is presently a non-profit consortium supported by publishers and editors, and can be used by individual authors and readers without charge.
Rather than relying on a crawler which archives pages in a "random" fashion, WebCite users who want to cite webpages in a scholarly article can initiate the archiving process. They then cite—instead of or in addition to the original URL—a WebCite address, with a specific identifier which identifies the snapshot of the page they meant to cite.
The WebCite idea was first conceived in 1997 and mentioned in a 1998 article on quality control on the Internet, alluding to the fact that such a service would also be useful to measure the citation impact of webpages. In the same year, a pilot service was set up at the address webcite.net (see Template:Waybackdate). However, shortly after, Google and the Internet Archive entered the market, both apparently making a service like WebCite redundant. The idea was revived in 2003, when a study published in the journal Science concluded that there is still no appropriate and agreed on solution in the publishing world available. Both the Internet Archive and Google do not allow for “on-demand” archiving by authors, and do not have interfaces to scholarly journals and publishers to automate the archiving of cited links. In 2005, the first journal announced using WebCite routinely, and dozens of other journals followed.
WebCite allows on-demand prospective archiving. It is not crawler-based; pages are only archived if the citing author (or editor/publisher) has requested archiving of a webpage. In other words, no cached copy on WebCite will be found if the author or somebody else hasn't cached it beforehand.
Caching/archiving a page can be initiated by going to WebCite and using the "archive" menu option, or by creating the WebCite bookmarklet, which will allow users to cache pages while they are surfing by just clicking a button in their bookmarks folder.
Archived pages can be retrieved or cited using a transparent format like http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=URL&date=DATE, where URL is the URL that was archived, and DATE indicates the caching date. For example, http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FMain_Page&date=2008-03-04 retrieves an archived copy of the URL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page that is closest to the date of March 4, 2008. Alternatively, a short form is available to cite an archived page ; in this case it is http://www.webcitation.org/5W56XTY5h.
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