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Saturday, 18 October 2008 12:45

Way back in time, with the Internet Achive

Are you aware that you can see archived pages from a wide range of Web sites, going back to the 1990s in some cases? It's fascinating to see what things were like way, way back in the Internet dark ages!

The Internet Archive (IA) is a non-profit organization, founded in 1996 — not too long after the Internet entered its rapid growth phase.

It has the mission "to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format."

The Internet Archive say that they've been working to prevent the Internet - a new medium with major historical significance - and other "born-digital" materials from disappearing into the past.

"Collaborating with institutions including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian, we are working to preserve a record for generations to come."

Read here some more about the Internet Archive, or the "Wayback Machine" to use its more approachable name.

Find out even more on the FAQs page, including why some Web sites do not appear in the archive.

Apart from the obvious use of tracing the Web's evolution (seeing what sorts of site design and coding techniques were used in earlier days, etc), it has the additional benefits of any recorded history medium, including the important "right to remember" that is highlighted on the "About IA" page.

I was prompted to use the Wayback Machine a month or two ago, when briefing a team of students from Swinburne University of Technology who are doing a project on redesigning my Web site (

I found it the only tool I could  use to demonstrate to the students how the site design of my site started off simplistically in 2000 and has morphed over the years.

Then when I saw that Google Inc. turns 10 today - Happy birthday! (7th September 2008), I used the Wayback Machine to have a peek at what the Google home page looked like at the start, and how it also changed over the years, essentially remaining its simple self all that time.

The prototype Google home page is here, In comparison, read iTWire colleague Alex Zaharov-Reutt's story about another early view of Google at Go ogle Google as it was back in 2001! (Not quite right back at the very start in 1998, though.)


The Internet Archive has been receiving data donations from Alexa Internet and others.

Alexa Internet has been crawling the web since 1996, which has resulted in a massive archive" they tell us.

"If you have a web site, and you would like to ensure that it is saved for posterity in the Internet Archive, and you've searched wayback and found no results, you can visit the Alexa's Webmasters page" (and there are a couple of other methods to get your site added to the archive).

They advise that some sites may not be included because the automated crawlers were unaware of their existence at the time of the crawl.

It's also possible that some sites were not archived because they were password protected, blocked by robots.txt, or otherwise inaccessible to their automated systems. Site owners might have also requested that their sites be excluded from the Wayback Machine.

Some sites harder to archive than others. If you look at their collection of archived sites, they say, you will find some broken pages, missing graphics, and some sites that aren't archived at all.

Reasons include unknown sites (not known to the Alexa search engine), JavaScript problems, robot exclusion headers, and orphan pages (pages not linked to from a site's page hierarchy).

Finally, I would be remiss not to provide this link to iTWire's archive at the Wayback Machine (first entry is for 23 March 2005).

Try visiting other sites that you find of interest.

TIP: sometimes you have to prefix the URL with "www", other times you don't. Or you have to try other variations (such as adding the ".au" top level domain extension, as in the case of the iTWire site, rather than using just "").

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Tony Austin

Worked at IBM from 1970, for a quarter century, then founded Asia/Pacific Computer Services to provide IT consulting and software development services (closed company at end of 2013). These says am still involved with IT as an observer and commentator, as well as attempting to understand cosmology, quantum mechanics and whatever else will keep my mind active and fend off deterioration of my grey matter.

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