New look and URL for LoC formats site

The Library of Congress has reorganized its site on file format sustainability and given it a new URL. (The old one redirects there.) A blog entry discusses the change. Relationships among formats are a big part of the site. It’s significant, for instance, that the MP3 encoding and the de facto MP3 file format get separate entries.

My reactions are mixed. When you click “Format Descriptions” on the main page, you get a page titled “Format Description Categories.” The nesting description at the top says you’re in “Format Descriptions as XML.” Eight categories are listed, and two formats plus “All xxx format descriptions” are listed under each category. There’s no obvious reason why those two formats get special prominence, or what the page has to do with XML.

I haven’t looked carefully at the old site in a while, so I can’t say exactly what is new or isn’t. The “All format descriptions” lists seem new. They’re alphabetical lists, with one or more subformats listed under each format, and a link with each subformat to its own page.

There’s no ability to search for a format by name. Finding a format that doesn’t clearly fall into one of the categories (e.g., PDF) is difficult. There’s a box for searching the whole site, but that’s not the same thing. When I view the search results by grid, I see lots of little boxes all the same, called “Web Page” or sometimes “Book.” Only by hovering over one can I see what it actually is. When I clicked on a Book called “Matrimonial TIFF” (I’ve heard of such a thing before but didn’t realize it was a file format), I got an error page.

The site is as rich in information as ever. A file format junkie can spend hours or days browsing through all the notes on various formats.

The new site gives the impression of some fine work that was released too fast. Hopefully it will improve soon.

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