The British Library will begin to preserve the digital age for future generations when new regulations come into force.
It aims to "harvest" the entire UK web domain to document current events and record the country's burgeoning collection of online cultural and intellectual works.
Billions of web pages, blogs and e-books will now be amassed along with the books, magazines and newspapers which have been stored for several centuries.
The library could eventually collect copies of every public Tweet or Facebook page in the British web domain.
Lucie Burgess, leading the project at the British Library, said the unprecedented operation would provide a complete snapshot of life in the 21st century which increasingly plays out online.
"If you want a picture of what life is like today in the UK you have to look at the web," she said.
"We have already lost a lot of material, particularly around events such as the 7/7 London bombings or the 2008 financial crisis.
"That material has fallen into the digital black hole of the 21st century because we haven't been able to capture it.
"Most of that material has already been lost or taken down. The social media reaction has gone."
The operation to "capture the digital universe" will begin with an automatic "web harvest" of an initial 4.8 million websites - or one billion web pages - from the UK domain, she said.
This will start tomorrow and is expected to take three months.
It will then take another two months to process the data.
"We will have to distinguish between content published in the UK and elsewhere but in principle we will be able to archive the publicly available tweets of any individual, company or organisation," Ms Burgess said.
Until now the British Library could only preserve a relatively small handful of websites.
The 2003 Legal Deposit Library Act paved the way for the information to be stored but copy right laws forced the library to seek permission each time it wanted to collect web content.
Under the new regulations - which extend to the Bodleian Library, in Oxford, Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales and Trinity College Library in Dublin - it has the right to receive a copy of every UK electronic publication.
Roly Keating, chief executive of the British Library, said: "Ten years ago, there was a very real danger of a black hole opening up and swallowing our digital heritage, with millions of web pages, e-publications and other non-print items falling through the cracks of a system that was devised primarily to capture ink and paper.
"The Legal Deposit Libraries Act established in 2003 the principle that legal deposit needed to evolve to reflect the massive shift to digital forms of publishing.
"The regulations now coming into force make digital legal deposit a reality, and ensure that the Legal Deposit Libraries themselves are able to evolve - collecting, preserving and providing long-term access to the profusion of cultural and intellectual content appearing online or in other digital formats."
The British Library, which has invested £3 million in the project during the past two years, plans to collect the material by conducting an "annual trawl" of the UK web domain.
It will "harvest" information from another 200 sites - such as online newspapers or journals - on a more regular basis.
Access to the material, including archived websites, will be offered in reading rooms at each of the legal deposit libraries.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: "Legal deposit arrangements remain vitally important. Preserving and maintaining a record of everything that has been published provides a priceless resource for the researchers of today and the future.
"So it's right that these long-standing arrangements have now been brought up to date for the 21st century, covering the UK's digital publications for the first time."
Are We Really Here?
Physicists announced evidence that we may be living in an enormous computer in 2012 - or at least the chance they might be able to test if we are. It's a slight announcement in some ways, but as by far our most popular running story of 2012 <a href="www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/12/12/physicists-universe-simulation-test-university-of-washington-matrix_n_2282745.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-tech">it's clearly among your favourites to be the most significant in the coming decades.</a>
Mars Rover Curiosity
In July Nasa <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/12/14/nasa-proves-mars-rover-curiosity-self-portrait-conspiracy_n_2298684.html">successfully landed the $2.5 billion Mars rover Curiosity</a> on the surface of Mars using an untested 'sky crane' suspended by rocket boosters. It is the largest and most complex vehicle ever to make it to another planet, and will search for signs of life for more than two years.
Higgs Boson Discovered
To huge cheers and standing ovations, scientists at the world's biggest particle accelerator claimed the discovery of a new subatomic particle in July, calling it "consistent" with the long-sought Higgs boson popularly known as the "God particle" which gives matter its mass.
Earth-Like Exoplanets Discovered
Several breakthroughs in the search for Earth-like planets outside our Solar System were made in 2012, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20249753">including the discovery of what appears to be a 'Super Earth' in November.</a> These finds take us closer than ever to finding a world capable of sustaining life other than Earth. The discovery <a href="http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/11/newly-discovered-earth-like-planet-could-be-habitable/">of HD 40307g</a> was probably the most exciting, as it was shown to be orbiting its sun in a so-called "goldilocks zone" just like Earth.
Nasa Maps The Moon
Nasa's Grail mission launched two craft - Ebb and Flow - into orbit around the Moon to produce the most detailed gravity map of any body in the Solar System - including Earth. They crashed (on purpose) in December, but their work could help us understand how our world was formed - and if life might be hidden in the depths of Mars.
Many breakthroughs in medicine were made in 2012, but among the most exciting was a study in July <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-08/aids-cure-quest-advances-as-merck-cancer-medicine-attacks-hidden-hiv.html">which showed how a drug for a rare type of cancer was able to "flush out" deposits of HIV</a>. Work is still ongoing - and a cure is still far away - but it points in the direction of true breakthroughs in future.
Space X Docks With ISS
SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial ship to dock successfully with the International Space Station and deliver supplies.
Robot Helps In Heart Surgery
A robot was able to participate <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-20028502"> in open-heart surgery</a> for the first time in Britain in 2012, raising hopes that the machines may eventually lead to man's emancipation from hardship and illness, and not our total annihilation.
Climate Change: Still Awful
A host of breakthroughs in the study of climate change made for depressing - and occasionally hopeful - reading in 2012. The rate of polar melting <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/aug/11/arctic-sea-ice-vanishing"> was shown to be at fresh record levels</a>, and the most aggressive scenarios were <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-science-predictions-prove-too-conservative">said to be too conservative</a>. But fresh talks at Doha, while they accomplished little in solid policy, raised some hopes at a widespread and transformative shift in public opinion.
Man Jumps From Space
Red Bull Stratos pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria jumped from a capsule more than 24 miles up in 2012 - the highest jump ever and alone a significant technical achievement - but also among the most-watched public science experiments in many years.
Teleportation (albeit of information, not people) came a step closer to reality in 2012 after an international team <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120905134356.htm ">was able to send quantum information</a> more than 143 kilometres in "mid air".
A study in April was able to construct a working "quantum computer" network for the first time, indicating a truly transformative technological breakthrough in computing <a href="an elementary network for exchanging and storing quantum information">in which data could be transmitted by single atoms.</a>