Web Culture

Nothing Gets Deleted From the Internet, Ever. Here’s How.

Mihir Patkar 03-02-2015

The “Delete” button is a two-edged sword. It makes you feel safe online. Tweeted something you shouldn’t have? Delete it. But that same delete button can also be used to silence free speech and take down organizations like The Pirate Bay.


What if you couldn’t delete data from the web? What if information on the net lived on forever? That’s exactly what a few people want to do. They’re ready to offer it for free as a service, they’re ready to let you download it, and they’re ready to enlist you in an attempt to protect the Internet’s core value: that information should be free and it should live on.

Internet Archive: The Wayback Machine



Brewster Kahle, an Internet Hall of Fame inductee, created the famous Alexa ranking system for the web. Alongside, he was working on a different project: archiving everything that the Internet has.

The foundation of this pursuit lies in Kahle’s belief of universal access to all knowledge. In fact, he has expanded his vision to create a digital library of every book ever printed, every song ever composed, every movie ever filmed, and so on. Check out his TED talk for details on that.


The Internet Archive is exactly what it sounds like: a source for everything that the Internet has ever uploaded. It has been cataloguing data since 1996, so there are plenty of cool content treasures you can dig up 5 Types of Free Content Riches You Can Dig Up at the Internet Archive The Internet Archive keeps a variety of old content alive on the Web for the future. What kind of content can you dig up, and why should you care? Let's find out. Read More . Kahle also made the Wayback Machine, which is a simple way to visually time-travel into the Internet’s history The New Wayback Machine Lets You Visually Travel Back In Internet Time It seems that since the Wayback Machine launch in 2001, the site owners have decided to toss out the Alexa-based back-end and redesign it with their own open source code. After conducting tests with the... Read More .

So how big is all this?

As of December 1, 2014, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine contains almost 9 petabytes of data and is currently growing at a rate of ~20 terabytes per week. This eclipses the amount of text contained in the world’s largest libraries, including the Library of Congress.

The Internet Archive doesn’t save every single bit of content – that would be unfeasible, Brewster tells Commons Magazine, since the Internet is growing at the rate of one billion pages per week. Instead, the archive selects data that it thinks is part of the public’s conversation.

“For example, we haven’t archived everything on YouTube; instead, we just try to get the important parts of YouTube. This gets into your question of curation. How do we tell what’s important? Any YouTube that’s linked to from Twitter goes into the archive. That’s our way of selecting YouTube videos.”


Open-Sourcing YouTube, Downloading Wikipedia, Archiving Reddit & More


The Internet is unique in that it gives anyone a platform to publish their content, whether it’s written words or moving images. Wikipedia, Reddit and YouTube are arguably at the forefront of this type of content creation.

Wikipedia might incessantly ask you for money Wikipedia Has Millions In The Bank – Why Beg For More? Read More , but you know that the information is safe and the content itself is free – you can legally download all of Wikipedia. Head over to Wikipedia Dumps to download the entire database of the Wikimedia Foundation. In fact, it encourages you to do that and set up your own mirror.

While it’s not officially associated with Reddit, there’s also the Reddit Archive, making sure the Internet’s front page is not going anywhere. For individual comments, Uneddit is a bookmarklet that reveals those deleted comments you sometimes see on Reddit. When you delete a comment on Reddit, it’s not actually gone, and now you can see it.


Uneddit’s makers are committed to teaching the web a lesson: “When you post something on the Internet, it is saved forever no matter where or how you post it. Giving people the impression that they can remove content from the internet is what’s actually unethical. This site was created to raise awareness of this fact.”

Entrepreneur Helder Ribeiro has something similar in mind for YouTube, but he wants your help. The Internet isn’t really free, it is often censored The Internet Isn't Really Free - Who Is Censoring It & Why In any free, democratic society, citizens take pride in the fact that they have free access to information. This is true in many countries, where citizens have won hard-fought battles for independence. It is something... Read More . YouTube takes down videos often, and OpenNet has traced its recent history to prove that. Ribeiro wants to counter that with Guerilla Open Tube.

Participants will have to install the Github repository he created, publish a torrent of a downloaded video file, and create a forked repository. The idea then is to find other repositories, merge their content, and keep seeding videos on torrents. “Voilá! We have a distributed, censorship-resistant cache of YouTube!” writes Riberio.

Saving Torrents & The Open Bay




The “access to information” argument usually comes back to torrents at some point, which is where matters get murky. Recently, the largest torrent site The Pirate Bay was shut down. Some argue that safe torrenting died with it Why Safe Torrenting Died With The Pirate Bay As far as "popular" torrenting is concerned, the comparative safety that existed at The Pirate Bay is gone, and safe torrent downloads with it. Read More .

Essentially, The Open Bay open-sourced the code of Pirate Bay and gives anyone the tools to create their own Pirate Bay and host it. Apparently, about a thousand people from all around the globe were involved in the effort.

“We’re not a team, just enthusiasts that come and go. People that we trust,” The Open Bay’s representatives told us.

The setup is super-simple, and anyone with a basic knowledge of web hosting can have an Open Bay project up and running in 10 minutes.

“We want to change the landscape. Torrent industry is frozen for 10 years. We need to push it further,” they say. “(In case other websites are taken down) we want everybody to be ready.”

An unintended off-shoot of that is people can make money off it – but The Open Bay initiative isn’t bothered by this.

“We are trying to provide opportunity for other people. How they will handle it, is there choice. We’re not making the rules, community does. If you’re smart enough, you can make money, and make the world a better place,” they say.

The undefined community’s voice defines the next steps. The community chooses torrents as the most popular because it’s fast and convenient. But should torrenting be saved at all? “It’s for people to decide,” The Open Bay answers. “If they want it to be saved they will save it, if not, than it should be gone.”

Image credits: Joi Ito, geralt, Mattoxbest pixels (Shutterstock)

Related topics: Data Backup, The Internet Archive.

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  1. L
    October 18, 2019 at 11:38 am

    I may not understand precisely what point the article is trying to make ( maybe that censorship is bad and even if you can't delete very private life-damaging stuff such as nude photos you thought were a good idea to send through the internet when you were a teenager everything ever on the internet should be forever there and locatable by anyone), but I myself am looking for some recently deleted context from certain websites and I tried different "internet archive" sites and none can find some of the deleted conversation posts that I have been looking for.
    If nothing on the internet is ever deleted, it may not matter. It can be very hard to find anyway.

  2. Gatorade
    July 27, 2019 at 12:26 am

    Bring back Ex Hentai and Sad panda,then I'll know that nothing truly gets deleted

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    March 15, 2018 at 4:05 pm

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  4. Alex
    February 15, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    Would you like to delete or remove unwanted content from the internet? IncFidelibus has you covered. Contact:- INCFIDELIBUS at Gmail dot Com

  5. Lori Patrick
    January 19, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    My son's youtube videos were maliciously deleted by another kid. Is there anyway to restore? These are priceless and irreplaceable and we're desperate to retrieve them. I have all the url's if that helps. He uploaded them straight from his ipod to youtube. We weren't setup on the cloud. Please any advice would be appreciated.

  6. David Yeo
    October 15, 2016 at 5:54 am

    I have deleted photos and posts from Facebook that none of my friends have access to. What can I do to recover them? I obviously searched for this specific question on Google but all they told me to do was download the archive which doesn't even have any material from before this year. Your help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  7. Linda
    August 9, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Please just tell me the name of a program which is able to restore deleted internet data - I mean deleted on purpose because it should not be seen. Is the program called Alexa? Where could I download it?

  8. Thomas
    March 14, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    Don't forget this website also saves reddit comments: http://www.resavr.com

    • Mihir Patkar
      March 16, 2015 at 6:27 pm

      Oooh I didn't know this one. Thanks!

  9. A41202813GMAIL
    February 12, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    I Am Talking About Anything Digital.

    Just 2 Examples Among So Many Many Many More:

    A - Since APRIL 2014, And Unless You Are A Developer, You Can No Longer Download IE7 Or IE8 For XP ( But For VISTA, You Can ), From The M$ Site.

    You Can Still Find ENGLISH Versions On Some Abandonware Sites, But If You Are Not Comfortable With ENGLISH, You Are Just Screwed, Because Other Languages Are Really Tough To Find.

    B - To Make Room In My Tiny 40MB Disk, Almost 25 Years Ago, I Deleted The Configuration Program For A DOS Compiler/Runtime Software Called RMCOBOL 2.1A - In The Dumbest Way, I Thought I Would Not Need It Ever Again.

    When My Printer Went Kaput, I Needed It Again For The New Printer Settings - Now What ?

    I Contacted The Then Proprietary Company Trying To Buy The Old Version, But, After So Many Mergers, They Did Not Have It And Just Wanted Me To Buy The Most Recent And Incompatible One - Thank You For Nothing.

    As I Said, Planned Obsolescence Really Sucks.

    Thank You For Responding.

  10. A41202813GMAIL
    February 4, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    I Wish This Was True.

    Old Software Is Dying On A Daily Basis, Never To Be Found Again.

    Planned Obsolescence Sucks.


    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 5:22 am

      What old software died recently, without a chance to export your data?

  11. Doc
    February 3, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    "Recently, the largest torrent site The Pirate Bay was shut down. Some argue that safe torrenting died with it."
    Um, the site's been back up for a few days now. Unfortunately, not all the staff was retained, so some virus-infected and fake torrents will now survive, but there's always alternative torrent sites that are still well-moderated.

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 5:21 am

      Yeah, there was a delay in publishing this article, I wrote it when it was still down :) Sorry about that!

  12. dragonmouth
    February 3, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Between the NSA and Brewster Kahle privacy is sure to get eliminated.

    • Doc
      February 3, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      I'm sure censorship and tyranny are the better alternative. /sarcasm

    • Mihir Patkar
      February 12, 2015 at 5:21 am