Internet Time Machine

What Is The Internet Time Machine and What can it be used for?

Have you ever looked at a photo from your parents from decades ago and wondered what it was like to live back then? Same goes for the internet but I’m sure no one ever thinks that about the internet but it’s amazing how different the internet has developed aesthetically and of course speed. Well there is a way you can actually go back and view the internet the way it was and this is called the Internet time machine.

The Internet Time Machine, sometimes reffered to as the wayback machine, can be a very powerful resouce. It is described as a digital archive of the World Wide Web (WWW) and enables users to see archived versions of web pages across time. It works even the content is not available on the most current version of the website.

Quick history

The Internet Time Machine was founded on May 12, 1996, in San Francisco, California by Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat. Kahle and Gilliat also founded Alexa Internet, now owned by Amazon. Kahle and Gilliat created the machine hoping to archive the entire Internet and provide “universal access to all knowledge.” Initially from 1996 to 2001, the information was kept on digital tape, with Kahle occasionally allowing researchers and scientists to tap into the clunky database. In 2001 the information was made public, via the a web page, archive.org, and contained over 10 billion archived pages It currently indexes more than 396 billion web pages, making it the most popular archiving service.

In this article, we will cover how you can use the Internet Time Machine and three different ways that it’s useful.

How To Use The Internet Time Machine

Step 1 – Using the Internet Time Machine is very simple, and it functions similarly to a search engine. To begin checking out the Internet Time Machine’s archived pages, navigate to archive.org in your web browser.

Internet Time machine

Step 2 – Start your search by imputing either a direct URL or search through a list of relevant domains by typing in a keyword.

Searching by keyword will show a list of results by domain name, as well as the number of captures, or snapshots, for each.

Internet Time machine Keyword search

Step 3 – Once you have searched for your specific domain or selected you keyword search result you will then go directly to its list of captured pages. If you search by URL, you’ll be taken immediately to its list of captures (if any exist).

On this page, you’ll see a visual timeline that shows all of the selected URL’s captures.

Clicking on any of the years in this timeline will bring you to a page with a bubble chart calendar to help visualize all of the page’s saved data for that year.

For days with more captures, the bubble will be larger. Green bubbles indicate that a date’s captures are mostly 301 redirects, while blue bubbles indicate standard captures. You’ll occasionally see orange bubbles, which indicate that the page was not able to be accessed during a capture attempt.

Pages do not have to be updated for the Internet Time Machine to recapture them, so keep that in mind.

Creative Ways To Use The Internet Time Machine

Now that you know how to use the Internet Time Machine, what can you use it for? There are many uses, both practical and creative, so let’s go over a few.

Take a trip down memory lane.

It’s surreal to look back on what some of the web’s billion-dollar companies looked like around two decades ago and see what technologies were being released at that time. Microsoft.com is a great example below showing the difference between the two sites 20 years apart. Why not have some fun and go to one of your favourite websites.

Micrososft.com

mirosoft.com as seen in 1999
microsoft.com as seen in 2020

Website design

What if you you are a web designer tasked with revamping a clients website. The client’s marketing department has redesigned the website and the CEO just does not like the new design and would like it to look like the website from a year ago. You can use the internet time machine to gain inspiration from the previous website to bring it back even better then it ever was.

Hold People Accountable

The Internet Time Machine can be used for more serious situations and is one of the best resources you can use when you want to hold a person or company to their word.

You may have heard some form of the adage “when you post something online, it lives forever.” The Internet Time Machine strives to make sure this holds true. Whether you want to prove a web page leaking your personal information, someone on Twitter posting something defaming, or anything of this nature, archive.org has your back—so long as a snapshot exists.

In September 2018, US appeals court judges ruled that the Internet Time Machine is an acceptable form of legal evidence. If a journalist reports something false or someone incriminates themselves through a web page, the Internet Time Machine doesn’t forget.

Revive a deadlink

You’ve probably had the experience of clicking on a link on a webpage and getting a “404” or “page not found” notation. Now you’re wondering what was on the page originally. That’s where the Wayback Machine can help. You can go back in time and see where that link will take you.

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