The wayback machine is way cool

The wayback machine is way cool

Sreenivasan, Sreenath

If you thought all material on the Internet was short-lived, you haven’t yet seen the Wayback Machine. It’s an attempt to archive the entire Web, providing a look at the evolution of millions of sites around the world.

Here’s how it works: Point your browser at and then in the search box, enter the URL of a site you are interested in. Looking up “,” for instance, pulls up links to The New York Times site going back to November 12,1996. As you step through the various dates on which these snapshots have been taken, you can see how the Times site has changed – and with it, design and news conventions. “” brings up the October 31, 1996 front page, optimized for Netscape version 1.1 (the browser is now up to version 6.2).

For certain major news stories, like September 11 and the 2000 elections, there are special sections that allow you to browse various sites to see what was served up in that moment in time.

The Wayback Machine is part of the Internet Archive, which houses the world’s largest library. with more than 100 terabytes of data or 10 billion pages of text. All this data is stored on hundreds of servers in San Francisco. The Archive’s sister project,, is also worth checking out: among other things, it has video of September 11 events from around the world.

Copyright Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism Jan/Feb 2002

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