The Wayback Machine sounds like something featured in a science fiction movie, where the characters have to go back in time to alter the course of their own history. The name was indeed chosen in reference to the WABAC Machine, which is a time-traveling device used by the characters Sherman and Mr. Peabody from the popular cartoon The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
In reality, the Wayback (Time) Machine is a website that allows you to travel in time to see how any website looked in the past. Created by a non-profit organization, the Internet Archive, the Wayback Machine was launched in October of 2001. The purpose of the website is to capture and save content that would otherwise be lost, should a creator wish to either update a page or take it down altogether. Users are able to view archived, or saved, web pages and information that has been or previously was published on the Web. The Internet Archive refers to the service of allowing users to view archived versions of the World Wide Web across time as a “three dimensional index,” which makes it sound ever more like a machine straight out of a futuristic sci-fi film.
Movies which are (not) related to the Wayback Time Machine
Mr. Peabody & Sherman. This movie actually features the Wayback Time Machine that inspired the name for the Internet Archive’s website.
Back to the Future: Doc Brown used a time machine for the DeLorean in the 1980’s Back to the Future movie trilogy.
Primer: This intricate movie from 2002 revolves around a time machine inside a storage container.
How does the Internet Archive work?
Revisiting sites every few weeks, the Wayback Machine archives the newest versions of cached, or stored, so-called “snapshots” of websites across the net. The Internet Archive has made its information available for both creators and users for free, currently offering over 300 billion web pages saved over time. Not only can users view a digital archive of Internet sites, but it also allows web developers to archive their own sites on behalf of posterity. However, it is not easy for web developers to restore their website, since the Internet Archive adds their owncode to pages. Our software removes this code and thereby helps developers recovering their website.
The Internet Archive has been an invaluable tool for journalists as well as for lawyers who use the saved pages as information that is deemed admissible in court. While legal cases have been brought against the Wayback Machine for copyright reasons, the site remains intent on storing information for historical purposes. The site is currently blocked in both China and Russia.