The Wayback Machine is a digital archive of websites created by Internet Archive to document and organize snapshots of sites for the benefit of future researchers, historians, and the general public. With the name derived cleverly from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, The Wayback Machine gives us the ability to see how webpages change over time.
The Wayback Machine works by simply dragging the link from their website onto your browser’s toolbar. From any public site, this excludes Facebook, Netflix, or anything with private and blocked information, you can click on the “Wayback” button. It will take you to a calendar full of archived pages. Take Amazon, for example. By using the Wayback Machine to explore the history of Amazon, you have the ability to see what Amazon’s homepage looked like in 1999 through 2013. There’s an interesting opportunity to see the evolution of web design, along with the ever-changing headlines of new products, such as fashion and electronics.
Since the World Wide Web has only been in existence for roughly the last twenty years, this is a preparatory step to archiving the future of information technology.
While I loved seeing what Weather.com looked like in 1999, the Internet Archive organization has caused me to think about our constant goal to document ourselves. In this week’s reading by Vincent Miller, “New Media, Networking and Phatic Culture,” he discusses how social relations are becoming primarily informational rather than narrative. Due to the overexposure to social networking, individuals relate to one another based on something that is intangible. We attempt to fit ourselves into these blocks of vague information, with the hopes of improving our social lives. In reality, we are simply archiving ourselves. With the release of Facebook’s “Timeline,” we can see how we have evolved in the same manner as web design or the latest trends.
Did every other generation in every other century have this desire to archive and document every creation at its conception? Perhaps since archaeologists and historians try to fill in the holes of history, the goal of this process is to be sure that centuries from now, they will know who we were, and what we cared about.
The Wayback Machine is a wonderful tool to explore the World Wide Web and how it has developed since the beginning. The constant change of society displayed through media now has the capability to be a part of a larger collection that will someday define our entire existence.
Vincent Miller: “New Media, Networking and Phatic Culture” Photo from Creative Commons.