News websites update dozens, if not hundreds, of times per day as news develops and breaks. Multiply those changes by a year, and you get a feel for how the news tide ebbs and flows. But unlike the front pages of the stacks of newspapers collecting dust in morgues, it’s hard to really review the news that rolled in over a website.

But thanks to a happy mistake by Phillip Mendonça-Vieira, who accidentally recorded 12,000 screen shots of NYTimes.com, snapping the front page twice an hour from September 2010 to July 2011, we can watch a year’s worth of breaking news pass through the New York Times homepage. It’s awesome to see the real-time unfolding of major national and international events in the seven-ish minute time lapse video Mendonça-Vieira released of his screen shots.

I’d add my own two cents, but Mendonça-Vieira pretty aptly summed up why this matters beyond being cool:

[A]s a rule of thumb no one is storing their frontpage layout data. It’s all gone, and once newspapers shutter their physical distribution operations I get this feeling that we’re no longer going to have a comprehensive archive of how our news-sources of note looked on a daily basis. Archive.org comes close, but there are too many gaps to my liking.

This, in my humble opinion, is a tragedy because in many ways our frontpages are summaries of our perspectives and our preconceptions. They store what we thought was important, in a way that is easy and quick to parse and extremely valuable for any future generations wishing to study our time period.

(Found via Gizmodo)