What is the Wayback Machine?

According to fun-wiki.com, the Wayback Machine is an online service of the Internet Archive that makes archived versions of websites available to the user for viewing. The archive was founded in 1996 as a non-profit project and now includes not only the content of the Wayback Machine (Start: 2001) but also other digital content. The use of the Wayback Machine is free of charge.

History of the Wayback Machine

The Wayback Machine started saving web pages back in 1996. The service was released in 2001. By then, the Wayback Machine had archived 10 billion pages. The name should be based on the “WABAC machine”, a fictional time machine from the cartoon series “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”. According to the founders Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat, the goal of the Wayback Machine is the archiving of the entire Internet and the associated provision of all knowledge.

What is the Wayback Machine used for?

Scientists from the fields of information technology, library sciences and social sciences in particular benefit from the archived data of the Wayback Machine in their research. Countless scientific articles have been written about the Wayback Machine. For example, scientists can analyze the relevance of website development to business growth.

The Wayback Machine is also helpful for journalists worldwide when examining website content and researching old news articles and reports. For example, false statements by politicians have been uncovered in the past. Wikipedia editors use the Wayback Machine to verify sources.

The archived websites of the Wayback Machine have also helped to clarify several cases in court. In patent law in particular, time stamps from the internet archive can be used to track when a website was published.

As of October 2019, users can only make five requests per minute.

Criticism of the Wayback Machine

Over the past few years, the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine have come under constant criticism. In this criticism, the main focus is on copyright. The Wayback Machine uses an opt-out procedure when crawling content. This means that all websites can be indexed first. Website operators who do not want this for their website must request removal from the archive. Especially under German law, this constitutes a violation of copyright law. Archiving is a type of reproduction that, under German law, only belongs to the author.

Website operators can try to protect themselves by configuring the robots.txt file, but the operators of the Wayback Machine announced in 2017 that the crawler will pay less and less attention to the configurations in the robots.txt file.

The Wayback Machine and SEO

The Wayback Machine can be very helpful for the search engine optimization of websites. For example, if a website crashes in its ranking, the Wayback Machine can make it easier to investigate the cause. The code of older versions of the website can be compared with the current version in order to identify weaknesses. Possible sources of error can also be identified in the event of a penalty on the part of Google.

In link management, the archive can help website operators and SEO experts to locate broken or dead links. Lots of broken links can negatively affect a website’s ranking on Google. In the case of duplicate content, the Wayback Machine can be used to prove that certain content already existed at an earlier point in time.

What is the Wayback Machine