The biggest public archive of the internet, the Wayback Machine, also known as the Internet Archive (http://archive.org/web/ ) is an almost complete collection of web pages of the entire world wide web over time. Best of all, it is entirely free.
In this article, we talk about how you can use the Wayback Machine, which is one of the most underrated online tools, and how it can be fun, informative & very handy to all of us.
The good old times
What the Way Back Machine offers is truly mind-boggling. It provides billions of possibilities. You can go to the website of the American White House, Nike, Beyonce, Huggies Nappies or the Coffs Harbour City Council -not today but let’s say 15 or 20 years ago! It can be a lot of fun looking at the humble beginnings & development of big brands like Coles in 1996.
Review a domain’s history
You can check the history of your own (or someone else’s) domain. Did anyone have it registered before you? Who were the various owners of a domain? The Wayback Machine most likely has answers to all of these questions.
Legal support & evidence
The Internet Archive can also provide support in situations where you need to prove that certain content was present on a particular website at a certain time. This can be crucial in copyright or brand disputes or cases where your or somebody else’s right to privacy has been violated.
The internet archive can be used to review your competitor’s websites and their development over time. You can analyse changes in branding, the evolvement of marketing strategies and every public aspect of a competitor’s website since they have been active online.
Back-up & recovery
If you ever come across a link for something that is no longer available, the chances are that the Wayback Machine has a working copy of the page or file that you can view.
In a worst case scenario where you somehow lose your website files or your website has been hacked or compromised and you don’t have a working back-up, the Wayback Machine Downloader, which is a paid third-party service utilising the Wayback Machine can help to restore a website. The actual restoring has to be carried out manually with the help of other online tools, and your web designer will most likely be able to assist you if you are not technically inclined. This process is in some ways limited. If you had a site using dynamic scripting languages, such as PHP and MySQL in a WordPress website, those dynamic parts cannot be recovered. However, a static copy (HTML + CSS) can assist in the recovery of styles and content (e.g. text & images).
A record of our history
The changes of the internet in millions of websites is not only a reflection of the developments in technology but also changes in ideologies, society, globalisation, values, fashion and styles. The Wayback Machine is pretty much an ever-growing record of us starting from about 20 years ago.
Implications for your privacy
We all know to be cautious when putting personal information on the internet. You may think, I will just take questionable photos or information off the internet and delete it when I want to, but even if you take content down off the web, it might in fact still be there to be found in archives like the Wayback Machine. The implications of this are serious in regards to your privacy, and there are good reasons to be careful and responsible with your personal information. Your future boss might one day look you up on Facebook.
Conclusions regarding one of the most underated online tools
Besides the privacy concerns which large-scale data-mining services often raise, the Wayback Machine is one of those great and handy online tools in regards to so many applications. We here at F1RST use it quite often for all kinds of web design and competitor analysis related work.
We hope you find some use or a least a bit of entertainment through this massive scale service that remains a bit of an insider’s secret.
If you find some other uses for the Internet Archive not listed here or if you come across an exciting snapshot of a website on the Wayback Machine, please drop us a line through our contact page. We would love to include your addition to this article.