Back to the Future dot Net: History, Research, and The Internet Archive

Looking for a blast from the past? If you ever wanted to get a snapshot of how the internet once was, then you have got to check out The Wayback Machine developed by an organization that calls themselves The Internet Archive. The Wayback Machine is a search engine that actually lets you visit sites as they appeared in previous years. Their archive goes back as far as 1996, and contains over 100 terabytes (100,000 gigabytes) and 10 billion web pages.

Just for kicks, check out one of the first versions of Google “Wayback” in 1998. Pretty retro, isn’t it. You can actually link to these older versions of websites, making this search engine ideal for researchers, who need to be able to reference really old material from the , or see the of a website over the course of time. However, you can not search by individual terms like most modern search engines. You can only enter a URL for the site you want to lookup, then choose from a particular month and year. More types of searches will likely be available in the future. The site is also developing a category based search that groups websites and lets you get a feel for what the internet was like at certain key point in the past. Right now you can search from these 4 different collections of websites: September 11, Election 2000, US Government, and (my personal favorite) Web Pioneers.

And that’s not all..

From their site:

“The Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.”

Other things i saw on the Internet Archive site that interested me are:

  • Open Source Movies – are movies contributed by the community.
  • Canadian Libraries – that have joined the Internet Archive to scan this set of books as part of a volume book scanning pilot project. A Kirtas APT 1200 located at the University of Toronto was used to try to achieve a 10,000 pages per day scanning rate.
  • Live Music Archive – is a community committed to providing the highest quality live in a lossless, downloadable format. The Internet Archive has teamed up with to preserve and archive as many live concerts as possible for current and future generations to enjoy.

There are just too many amazing things happening on The Internet Archive site to describe here, so I just bookmarked the site once I got there. The main home page itself is rather overwhelming, so don’t get frustrated if you’re not sure where to go when you first arrive. Also, the site itself is relatively slow (presumeably because of the huge amounts of data in the archives). So be patient, investingate it one page at a time, and you should be alright.

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