Montag, 13. Februar 2017

Where have all the standards gone? A singalong for archivists.

Recently, we noticed that the specification for the TIFF 6 file format has vanished from Adobe's website, where it was last hosted. As you might know, Adobe owns TIFF 6 due to legal circumstances created by the acquisition of Aldus in 1994.

Up until now, we used to rely on the fact that TIFF is publicly specified by the document that was always available. However, since Adobe has taken down the document, all we have left are the local copies on our workstations, and we only have those out of pure luck. The link to has been dead for several months now.

This made us think about the standards and specifications themselves. We've always, half jokingly, said that we would have to preserve the standard documents in our repositories as well if we wanted to do our jobs right. We also thought that this would never be actually be necessary. Boy, were we wrong.

We're now gathering all the standard and specification documents for the file formats that we are using and that we are planning to use. These documents will then be ingested into the repository using separate workflows to keep our documents apart from the actual repository content. That way, we hope to have all documents at hand even if they vanished from the web.

From our new perspective, we urge all digital repositories to take care of not only their digital assets, but also of the standard documents they are using.

The TIFF user community just recently had to take a major hit when the domain owners of lost control of their domain, thus making the libtiff and the infrastructure around it unavailable for several weeks. Even though the LibTIFF is now available again at their new home (, we need to be aware that even widely available material might be unavailable from one day to another.