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Dynamic Web File Format Transformations with Grace

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Web accessible content stored in obscure, unpopular or obsolete formats represents a significant problem for digital preservation. The file formats that encode web content represent the implicit and explicit choices of web site maintainers at a particular point in time. Older file formats that have fallen out of favor are obviously a problem, but so are new file formats that have not yet been fully supported by browsers. Often browsers use plug-in software for displaying old and new formats, but plug-ins can be difficult to find, install and replicate across all environments that one may use. We introduce Grace, an http proxy server that transparently converts browser-incompatible and obsolete web content into web content that a browser is able to display without the use of plug-ins. Grace is configurable on a per user basis and can be expanded to provide an array of conversion services. We illustrate how the Grace prototype transforms several image formats (XBM, PNG with various alpha channels, and JPEG 2000) so they are viewable in Internet Explorer.


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