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The Internet Wayback Machine gives you an awesome place to go not only to find webpages that would otherwise be lost to the ether of cyberspace after they are no longer hosted, but it also allows you to observe how some of the larger and more popular websites today have evolved over time.
When you’re just starting out with your own website or blog, seeing that evolution can offer wonderful clues as to what proved successful and what didn’t. Karl wrote a review of the Wayback Machine back in 2008, and offered a cool glimpse of what the Wayback Machine can do for you.
The Wayback Machine Beta
Recently, I went over to the Wayback Machine to do some more research, and discovered that it had a different look, and the word “BETA” was posted just under the logo. Beta?
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 code on smaller collections, the owners have now transferred the entire archive over to the new software. Hence – Wayback Machine Beta. Here’s what the front page now looks like.
Nothing very spectacular, but sometimes simplicity hides a lot of functionality. That’s certainly the case here. The owners claim that the redesigned site is now much faster than the classic Internet Wayback Machine, and I actually did find that to be true. Searching for MakeUseOf and clicking the “Latest” button almost immediately turns up the latest snapshot of the site. In this case it’s MUO from December 24, 2010.
The coolest aspect of this Beta version, in my opinion, is how easily you can watch the progression of a website over time. The new toolbar at the top shows the volume of “crawls” that Wayback did for the site on a particular day. This is displayed in a timeline on the toolbar. You can see the current date that you’re viewing on the right side of the toolbar, and it’s also highlighted in the timeline.
Click on that older date in the timeline, and the display below will change the the version of the website to when the site was crawled on that date. Here’s MakeUseOf on July 16, 2006.
Just click once a little bit later in the timeline, and almost immediately the newer version of the same site pops up. Here’s MUO the next year, in 2007.
Don’t forget that each crawl-date offers a fully-functioning version of the website on that particular date, because just about every page was crawled. So, go ahead and click on the links to see those old pages. Sometimes it’s fun to go back and look at some of the comments from many years ago, or to see how individual pages of the site have changed over time.
There have been mixed reviews about the new calendar view that Wayback now offers. You can get there by clicking the “Show All” button rather than the “Latest” button on the main page. This will show you a calendar view of the exact dates when the Wayback Machine crawled the website. The larger the circle, the more times the machine crawled the site.
Click on one of the dates to see the exact time of day that the snapshots of the website were completed. Finally, you can click on the exact time to view that archived snapshot.
Some people really liked the previous layout, where you could see a list of snapshots for the site on one page, but others (myself included) like the more graphical layout, and the ease with which you can quickly switch from one view of the website to another just by tapping on the timeline.
So explore the new and improved Internet Wayback Machine. Do you like or hate the new look and functionality? What would you have done to improve it even more? Share your point of view in the comments section below.