Recording the Web’s History

    May 22, 2009
    Chris Crum

Have you ever messed around the Wayback Machine? This tool provided at or Internet Archive, lets you enter any URL and see what it has looked like over time. At least that’s what it is supposed to do.
The earliest incarnation of the Internet Archive, as displayed by the Internet Archive says:

The Archive will provide historians, researchers, scholars, and others access to this vast collection of data (reaching ten terabytes), and ensure the longevity of this information.

Wayback MachineThat was in 1997. Now the site’s about page says:

In late 1999, the organization started to grow to include more well-rounded collections. Now the Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages in our collections.

It also still alludes to the original concept of providing access for researchers, historians and scholars. An interesting post made by Philipp Lenssen recently notes that this might not be so reliable for such people however. He points to a number of errors and missing information, and questions the reliability of the Internet Archive.

"Should a historian accept this without further verification? And what if I’m unsure if my browser of 2009 shows the same as users saw with older browsers back in 1999? And what if I want to see in its launch year when the Wayback Machine has 0 pages from 1995?" writes Lenssen.

I don’t believe it was his intention to slam the Internet Archive. After all, what else do we have to go on at this point? Who’s done it better? But he inquires, "What will be the tools with which we’ll recover old websites in the future?" and I think that is the real point.

Google’s hell-bent on organizing the world’s information. It’s interesting that they haven’t gone this route yet (at least that we know of).