WebCite was an on-demand archive site, designed to digitally preserve scientific and educationally important material on the web by taking snapshots of Internet contents as they existed at the time when a blogger or a scholar cited or quoted from it. The preservation service enabled 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.

Available inEnglish
OwnerUniversity of Toronto[1]
Created byGunther Eysenbach
Launched1997 (1997)
Current statusOffline, home-page only

Service features

WebCite allowed for preservation of all types of web content, including HTML web pages, PDF files, style sheets, JavaScript and digital images. It also archived metadata about the collected resources such as access time, MIME type, and content length.

WebCite was a non-profit consortium supported by publishers and editors, and it could be used by individuals without charge. It was one of the first services to offer on-demand archiving of pages, a feature later adopted by many other archiving services, such as archive.today and the Wayback Machine. It did not do web page crawling.


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.[2] In the next year, a pilot service was set up at the address webcite.net. Although it seemed that the need for WebCite decreased when Google's short term copies of web pages began to be offered by Google Cache and the Internet Archive expanded their crawling (which started in 1996),[3] WebCite was the only one allowing "on-demand" archiving by users. WebCite also offered interfaces to scholarly journals and publishers to automate the archiving of cited links. By 2008, over 200 journals had begun routinely using WebCite.[4]

WebCite was formerly a member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium.[1] In response a 2012 message on Twitter relating to WebCite's former membership of the consortium, Eysenbach commented that "WebCite has no funding, and IIPC charges €4000 per year in annual membership fees."[5]

WebCite "feeds its content" to other digital preservation projects, including the Internet Archive.[1] 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.[6]

Sometime between July 9 and 17, 2019, WebCite stopped accepting new archiving requests.[7] In a further outage, as of October 29, 2021, all previously archived content is no longer available, and only the home page still works.


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.[8] 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.[9]

Business model

The term "WebCite" is a registered trademark.[10] WebCite did not charge individual users, journal editors and publishers[11] any fee to use their service. WebCite earned revenue from publishers who wanted to "have their publications analyzed and cited webreferences archived".[1] Early support was from the University of Toronto.[1]

WebCite maintained the legal position that its archiving activities[4] are allowed by the copyright doctrines of fair use and implied license.[1] To support the fair use argument, WebCite noted that its archived copies are transformative, socially valuable for academic research, and not harmful to the market value of any copyrighted work.[1] WebCite argued that caching and archiving web pages was 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.[1] To that end, WebCite would 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.[1]

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.[1] The "implied license" referred to general Internet standards.[1]

DMCA requests

According to their policy, after receiving legitimate DMCA requests from the copyright holders, WebCite would remove saved pages from public access, as the archived pages are still under the safe harbor of being citations. The pages were removed to a "dark archive" and in cases of legal controversies or evidence requests, there was pay-per-view access of "$200 (up to 5 snapshots) plus $100 for each further 10 snapshots" to the copyrighted content.[12]

See also


  1. "WebCite Consortium FAQ". WebCitation.org. WebCite via archive.org.
  2. 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. 317 (7171): 1496–1502. doi:10.1136/bmj.317.7171.1496. ISSN 0959-8146. OCLC 206118688. PMC 1114339. PMID 9831581. BL Shelfmark 2330.000000.
  3. "Fixing Broken Links on the Internet". Internet Archive blog. October 25, 2013.
  4. Eysenbach, Gunther; Trudel, Mathieu (2005). "Going, Going, Still There: Using the WebCite Service to Permanently Archive Cited Web Pages". Journal of Medical Internet Research. 7 (5): e60. doi:10.2196/jmir.7.5.e60. ISSN 1438-8871. OCLC 107198227. PMC 1550686. PMID 16403724.
  5. Eysenbach, Gunther [@eysenbach] (June 12, 2012). "@ReaderMeter @sennoma WebCite has no funding, and IIPC charges 4000 Euro/yr in membership fees" (Tweet). Archived from the original on January 3, 2022 via Twitter.
  6. Cohen, Norm (January 29, 2007). "Courts Turn to Wikipedia, but Selectively". The New York Times.
  7. "WebCite 17th July 2019". July 17, 2019. Archived from the original on July 17, 2019. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  8. "Fund WebCite". Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved December 6, 2013.
  9. "Conversation between GiveWell and WebCite on 4/10/13" (PDF). GiveWell. Retrieved October 18, 2009. 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.
  10. "WebCite Legal and Copyright Information". WebCitation.org. WebCite. Retrieved June 16, 2009.
  11. "WebCite Member List". WebCitation.org. WebCite Consortium. Retrieved June 16, 2009. Membership is currently free
  12. "WebCite takedown requests policy". WebCitation.org. WebCite. Archived from the original on April 22, 2021. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
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