The Internet Archive Part 1 - The Wayback Machine

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This week we'll explore the Internet Archive, a modern-day cabinet of wonders-slash-library that hosts tons of educational (and fun) materials online. First stop: The Wayback Machine.

Ever wondered what a web site looked like ten years ago? The Wayback Machine likely has the answer. This service of the Internet Archive started in 1996, actively archiving large chunks of the web. While it hasn't indexed every web site out there, it has gotten quite a few.

Let's take a case study -- mentalfloss.com! The domain first appears in the Wayback archive on August 12, 2002 - advertising Issue 4 of the magazine and sporting a minimalist design. By September 24, 2002 the site had been fleshed out with more sections, though unfortunately not all the images have been cached by the Wayback Machine -- so it's hard to tell what most of the page looked like. By the end of 2003, the site was highly developed, with a Store, Quiz/Fact Library, Email Newsletter, and lots more. Interesting, eh?

There are many other fun examples: CNN.com in June of 2000 - then-President Clinton looking forward to a Democratic victory in the election, Apple.com in October 1996 - advertising a new 117MHz PowerBook and a 28.8Kbps modem, Microsoft.com in October 1996 - touting Windows 95 and Windows NT, and Enron in November 1999 - with the slogan "Endless possibilities."

The Wayback Machine boasts 85 billion archived pages since 1996, stored in an enormous server room. See also: the Wayback Machine FAQ, Web Collaborations with the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress, and Archive-It.org. Tomorrow: more fantastic stuff from the Internet Archive!

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