Over the years, I've written about sundry websites that talk about products and services readers may find interesting and different. Historically speaking, I don't write too often about websites mainly because it's hard to find sites that appeal to everyone. But there is one that most anyone who surfs the Internet will find fascinating. And if you've been surfing for a few years, prepare yourself for a wave of nostalgia as you begin a blast from the past with the Wayback Machine.
Basically, the Wayback Machine (web.archive.org) is a website that lets you view most any website that exists today as it appeared as far back as 1996. That's the year when the idea for the Wayback Machine began and when the Internet Archive started to collect and preserve every known website it could locate. The archive boasts an impressive database that consumes more than 200 terabytes of storage space, and it's growing at a rate of over 12 terabytes per month. According to the Internet Archive, this is the largest known database in the world and contains multiple copies of the entire publicly available Web, surpassing all the data contained in the world's largest libraries, including the Library of Congress.
It's amazing how using the Wayback Machine gives one a feeling of time travel. Using it to view my own website evoked forgotten memories about how it looked way back in the beginning and how far it's come to be its present form. Even most of the old links have been preserved by the Wayback Machine, allowing me to see how the other referenced websites appeared at that time. I found myself staring at images I thought were long gone, never to be seen again. It was truly an eerie experience. I found it synonymous to the feelings I had when seeing once again the house in which I grew up and thought long ago destroyed.
Using the Wayback Machine is pretty straightforward. When typing in a current website, the Wayback Machine presents a timeline of available dates for that website. Click on the date you want, and you are instantly presented with a live screen of how the website appeared on that date.
I'm hard-pressed to think of a single website that would be of interest to everyone. A website's reason to be is that it contains related information or a central theme. Even the Wayback Machine has its central theme of looking at websites as they existed in the past. So while it's true that you can't have a website about everything, the Wayback Machine comes about as close to it as it gets. Use it to see websites you thought were long gone, see things how they appeared before you owned a computer, and thrill to the experience of being able to see a living history of the Internet past.