The Use and Purpose of the Internet's 'Wayback Machine'

See what a website used to look like, way back when

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Take a walk down the virtual memory lane provided by Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. This website is dedicated solely to storing web pages so that you can look through them again later.

The Wayback Machine was created to provide a place to preserve digital artifacts for researchers, historians, etc., but can just as easily be used for entertainment to see what a page used to look like, like Google way back in 2001. Another reason might be to access a page from a website that no longer exists and was shut down.

Wayback Machine catalogues more than 300 billion web pages from as far back as 1996, so there's a good chance that the website you want to see can be found on Wayback Machine. As long as the website allows for crawlers, and isn't password protected or blocked, you can even manually archive any page you want so that you can always have access to it in the future.

Wayback Machine is a great way to find really, really old pages, but if you're looking for more recent versions of a website that you can't access, try using Google's cached page option.

Internet Archive can also be useful for finding abandonware or other old software programs. If you use Wayback Machine to access a website that has been shut down, you might still be able to download software programs that are no longer available on their live page.

How to Use Wayback Machine

  1. Paste or type a URL into the text box on the homepage.

  2. Use the timeline at the top of the calendar to pick a year.

  3. Select any of the circles from the calendar for that year. Only the days highlighted with a circle contain an archive.

The page you land on shows what it looked like the day it was archived. From there, you can use the timeline at the top of the page to switch to a different day or year, copy the URL to share that archive with someone else, or jump to a different website with the text box at the top.

Submit a Page to Wayback Machine

You can also add a page to Wayback Machine if it's not already there. To archive a specific page as it stands right now, whether for a legitimate citation or just a personal reference, visit the Wayback Machine homepage and paste the link into the Save Page Now text box.

Another way to use Wayback Machine to archive a web page is with a bookmarklet. Use the JavaScript code below as the location of a new bookmark/favorite in your browser, and click it when on any web page to instantly send it to Wayback Machine for archiving.


More Information on Wayback Machine

The pages are shown on Wayback Machine only reflect the ones that were archived by the service, not the page's update frequency. In other words, while one page that you've visited might have been updated once every single day for a whole month, Wayback Machine might have only archived it a few times.

Not every single web page in existence is archived by Wayback Machine. They don't add chat or email websites to their archive and neither can they include websites that explicitly blocks Wayback Machine, websites that are hidden behind passwords, and other private sites that aren't publicly accessible.

If you have more questions about Wayback Machine, you can most likely find the answers through the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine FAQ page.