Not to be confused with Website.
Available in English
Owner University of Toronto[1]
Created by Gunther Eysenbach
Slogan(s) Preserving for posterity
Website www.webcitation.org
Alexa rank Negative increase 98,187 (August 2015)[2]
Commercial No
Launched 1997
Current status Online

WebCite is an on-demand archiving service, designed to digitally preserve scientific and educationally important material on the web by making snapshots of Internet contents as they existed at the time when a blogger, or a scholar or a Wikipedia editor cited or quoted from it. The preservation service enables verifiability of claims supported by the cited sources even when the original web pages are being revised, removed, or disappear for other reasons, an effect known as link rot.[3]

Comparison to other services

The service differs from the short time Google Cache copies by having indefinite archiving and by offering on-the-fly archiving. The Internet Archive, since 2013,[4] also offers immediate archiving, however WebCite has some advantages:

WebCite is a non-profit consortium supported by publishers and editors, and it can be used by individuals without charge. Rather than relying on a web crawler which archives pages in a "random" fashion, authors who want to cite web pages in a scholarly article can initiate the archiving process. They then cite – instead of or in addition to the original URL – the snapshot address archived by WebCite, with an identifier that specifies the cited source. (However, note that the Internet Archive does both a crawler-based archiving and on-demand archiving.)

WebCite can be used to preserve cited Internet content, such as the archived web pages, in addition to citing the original URL of the Internet content. All types of web content, including HTML web pages, PDF files, style sheets, JavaScript and digital images can be preserved. It also archives metadata about the collected resources such as access time, MIME type, and content length.


Conceived in 1997 by Gunther Eysenbach, WebCite was publicly described the following year when an article on Internet quality control declared that such a service could also measure the citation impact of web pages.[5] In the next year, a pilot service was set up at the address webcite.net (see archived screenshots of that service at the Wayback Machine (archived February 3, 1999)). Although it seemed that the need for WebCite decreased when Google's short term copies of web pages begun to be offered by Google Cache and the Internet Archive expanded their crawling (which started in 1996[4]), WebCite was the only one allowing "on-demand" archiving by users. WebCite also offers interfaces to scholarly journals and publishers to automate the archiving of cited links. By 2008, over 200 journals had begun routinely using WebCite.[6]

WebCite used to be, but is no longer, a member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium.[7] In a 2012 message on Twitter, Eysenbach commented that "WebCite has no funding, and IIPC charges €4000 per year in annual membership fees."[8]

WebCite "feeds its content" to other digital preservation projects, including the Internet Archive.[7] Lawrence Lessig, an American academic who writes extensively on copyright and technology, used WebCite in his amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States case of MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd.[9]


WebCite ran a fund-raising campaign using FundRazr from January 2013 with a target of $22,500, a sum which its operators stated was needed to maintain and modernize the service beyond the end of 2013.[10] This includes relocating the service to Amazon EC2 cloud hosting and legal support. As of 2013 it remained undecided whether WebCite would continue as a non-profit or as a for-profit entity.[11][12]


WebCite allows on-demand prospective archiving. It is not crawler-based; pages are only archived if the citing author or publisher requests it. No cached copy will appear in a WebCite search unless the author or another person has specifically cached it beforehand.

To initiate the caching and archiving of a page, an author may use WebCite's "archive" menu option or create a WebCite bookmarklet that will allow web surfers to cache pages just by clicking a button in their bookmarks folder.

One can retrieve or cite archived pages through a transparent format such as


where URL is the URL that was archived, and DATE indicates the caching date. For example,


or the alternate short form http://webcitation.org/5W56XTY5h retrieves an archived copy of the URL http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page that is closest to the date of March 4, 2008. The ID (5W56XTY5h) is the UNIX time in base 62.

It is important to note that WebCite does not work for pages which contain a no-cache tag. WebCite respects the author's request to not have their web page cached.

One can archive a page by simply navigating in their browser to a link formatted like this:


replacing urltoarchive with the full URL of the page to be archived, and youremail with their e-mail address. This is how the WebCite bookmarklet works.[13]

Business model

The term "WebCite" is a registered trademark.[14] WebCite does not charge individual users, journal editors and publishers[15] any fee to use their service. WebCite earns revenue from publishers who want to "have their publications analyzed and cited webreferences archived",[16] and accepts donations. Early support was from the University of Toronto.[17]

According to their policy, WebCite removes the saved pages after submitting DMCA requests from the copyright holders. The removed pages go to the "dark archive" with pay-per-view access ("$200 (up to 5 snapshots) plus $100 for each further 10 snapshots"[18]) to the copyrighted content.

WebCite maintains the legal position that its archiving activities[6] are allowed by the copyright doctrines of fair use and implied license.[7] To support the fair use argument, WebCite notes that its archived copies are transformative, socially valuable for academic research, and not harmful to the market value of any copyrighted work.[7] WebCite argues that caching and archiving web pages is not considered a copyright infringement when the archiver offers the copyright owner an opportunity to "opt-out" of the archive system, thus creating an implied license.[7] To that end, WebCite will not archive in violation of Web site "do-not-cache" and "no-archive" metadata, as well as robot exclusion standards, the absence of which creates an "implied license" for web archive services to preserve the content.[7]

In a similar case involving Google's web caching activities, on January 19, 2006, the United States District Court for the District of Nevada agreed with that argument in the case of Field v. Google (CV-S-04-0413-RCJ-LRL), holding that fair use and an "implied license" meant that Google's caching of Web pages did not constitute copyright violation.[7] The "implied license" referred to general Internet standards.[7]

See also


  1. "Webcitation.org Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  2. Habibzadeh, P.; Sciences, Schattauer GmbH - Publishers for Medicine and Natural (2013-01-01). "Decay of References to Web sites in Articles Published in General Medical Journals: Mainstream vs Small Journals". Applied Clinical Informatics. 4 (4). doi:10.4338/aci-2013-07-ra-0055.
  3. 1 2 Fixing Broken Links on the Internet, Internet Archive blog, October 25, 2013.
  4. Eysenbach, Gunther; Diepgen, Thomas L. (November 28, 1998). "Towards quality management of medical information on the internet: evaluation, labelling, and filtering of information". The BMJ. London: BMJ (company). 317 (7171): 1496–1502. doi:10.1136/bmj.317.7171.1496. ISSN 0959-8146. OCLC 206118688. PMC 1114339Freely accessible. PMID 9831581. BL Shelfmark 2330.000000. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
  5. 1 2 Eysenbach, Gunther; Trudel, Mathieu (2005). "Going, Going, Still There: Using the WebCite Service to Permanently Archive Cited Web Pages". Journal of Medical Internet Research. Toronto: Centre for Global eHealth Innovation at the University Health Network. 7 (5): e60. doi:10.2196/jmir.7.5.e60. ISSN 1438-8871. OCLC 107198227. PMC 1550686Freely accessible. PMID 16403724. Retrieved 2008-02-27.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "WebCite Consortium FAQ". webcitation.org. WebCite.
  7. "Twitter post". June 11, 2012. Archived from the original on March 10, 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-10.
  8. Cohen, Norm (January 29, 2007). "Courts Turn to Wikipedia, but Selectively". The New York Times.
  9. "Fund WebCite". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 2013-12-06.
  10. "Conversation between GiveWell and Webcite on 4/10/13" (PDF). GiveWell. Retrieved 2009-10-18. Dr. Eysenbach is trying to decide whether Webcite should continue as a non-profit project or a business with revenue streams built into the system.
  11. Compare: Habibzadeh, Parham (2015-07-30). "Are current archiving systems reliable enough?". International Urogynecology Journal: 1–1. doi:10.1007/s00192-015-2805-7. ISSN 0937-3462. Retrieved 2016-03-23. Besides Perma, there are many other preserving systems. WebCite is another one[...].
  12. "WebCite Legal and Copyright Information". WebCite Consortium. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
  13. "WebCite Member List". WebCite Consortium. Retrieved 2009-06-16. Membership is currently free
  14. "WebCite Frequently Asked Questions". WebCite Consortium. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
  15. "WebCite Frequently Asked Questions – Who owns and runs WebCite at the moment?". WebCite Consortium. Retrieved 2009-06-16. WebCite has been incubated and is still hosted at the University of Toronto / University Health Network's Centre for Global eHealth Innovation.
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