The Internet is an ever changing medium and this is of course one of the primary reasons for its huge popularity – Websites can be radically altered at the drop of a hat for a complete redesign or simply to include new or revised information. Whilst no one can argue that this is a predominantly good thing the fact that the old version of a website is quickly forgotten once updated is a cause for concern.
Hard copies of books and magazines cannot change and as long as they are stored safely you will always be able to dip back in time but once a website has been altered there usually is no looking back.
The well established Way Back Machine (www.archive.org) website sets to redress the balance by regularly storing copies of old websites so that at any point in the future you can look back at how a site used to be. Whilst not all sites are included in their database you will find that with hundreds of terabytes of storage space at their disposal that they do have most covered to a greater or lesser extent.
Primarily I have traditionally used this resource in the past just for killing a few minutes of time – it’s interesting to see how one of my sites used to look back in their infancy or indeed how one of the worlds biggest websites www.microsoft.com looked ten years ago.
It’s simply a case of heading to archive.org, typing in the URL of the website that you want to see and providing they have it in their database you can select a date in time to travel back to.
Of course there are also more serious reasons for using the Way Back Machine than simply killing a few minutes of your time. One of the defining moments in this century was the tragic events of September 11th but everything that you read now is written in hindsight however the Way Back Machine makes vast collections of archived websites available from the actual day itself.
This means in the future people will always be able to relive the events unfolding on the various news sites and bulletin boards as they happened rather than reading a synopsis of the catastrophe in a book or article. Whilst I don’t think such events make for pleasant reading it is important never to forget what happens in our past which is something that this website definitely helps to achieve.
On a lighter note the Way Back Machine has a ‘web pioneers’ section which charts the progress of sites that over time changed the face of the Internet. As well as providing a brief synopsis of the contribution a given site has made to the Web there is also a links to number of dates in time you can choose to visit.
Some users may just consider this site a bit of fun whereas others may spend hours using it to delve in to the past. Whichever way you decide to use this free resource no one can deny that it is helping to do the valuable job of storing the history of this quickly changing world we live in.
Chris Holgate writes a weekly article of all things tech related. He is a director and copyrighter of the online computer consumables business Refresh Cartridges who sell cheap ink cartridges, toner cartridges, computer hardware and other computer consumables online. An archive of his work can be found at www.computerarticles.co.uk.
Surprised that no one had done this, I decided to bring Avenue Q full circle and create a parody of “The Internet is For Porn” with Sesame Street characters. Enjoy!
Video Rating: 4 / 5