The Wayback Machine is an online service that frequently crawls websites, taking snapshots of sites at a particular point in time. Using the Wayback Machine, you can see what almost any site looked like throughout its lifespan.
Websites change frequently, and so do laws governing these websites. Whether due to data loss, new censorships on content, or even just out of curiosity, the Wayback Machine allows you to see content that no longer exists on the web. The Wayback Machine can also be used for troubleshooting.
Note: Certain sites may not appear due to that site being password protected, blocked by robots.txt, or was inaccessible for some other reason.
Head over to the Internet Archive’s official website and enter the URL of the site you’d like to look back on in the Wayback Machine’s address bar. Once entered, click “Browse History.”
On the next page, you’ll see a timeline with all the years that contains a snapshot of the entered website. There’s also a note about how many snapshots of the website there are between two dates.
Select the year you’d like to view.
Now you’ll see a calendar view of the selected year. On certain dates throughout the year, you’ll notice that it’s highlighted with a specific color. Here’s what they mean:
- No color: The website was not saved on this date.
- Blue: The website was successfully saved on this date.
- Green: This indicates a (3xx) redirect.
You’ll also notice that some circles are larger than others. This means that the website has multiple snapshots for that particular date. Note that this does not represent the number of times the site was updated.
Select the date/time you’d like to view by hovering your cursor over the date and selecting the snapshot from the pop-up menu.
You can now browse the archived version of the website.
As with anything, there are other options available for browsing older versions of websites, such as oldweb.today or the Library of Congress, though the Wayback Machine contains the largest archive of any other digital library on the web.