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Posted on Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 11:08 a.m.

New version of Wayback Machine from the Internet Archive

By Edward Vielmetti

first-google.png via Wayback Machine

The Internet Archive, a San Francisco based non-profit, has released a beta version of its Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine provides a way to browse through old web sites that have been collected through the Internet Archive's periodic scans of the Internet, and it lets you see how the web used to be.

University of Michigan, 1996


The December 19, 1996 version of the University of Michigan home page features the University of Michigan Marching Band.

Wayback Machine

The December 19, 1996 version of the home page for the University of Michigan is one of 1,242 versions of this page captured by the Wayback Machine. If you are looking to replay the 1990s, you will find this page hard to use, since the buttons don't work; surf instead from the text index of that date which still works. You will know that you are old school because the phone number of the University was in the 313 area code.

White House, September 2001


Three days after the 9/11 attacks, the front page graphic on displayed a graphic proclaiming a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. via Internet Archive

Archiving efforts kicked into high gear immediately after the 9/11 attacks. The September 13, 2001 version of was the first update captured, and subsequent versions from the next days show a piece of the Bush administration's responses. Remarkably, I was able to listen to audio of the president's speech to the nation after the attacks; you'll need a RealAudio player to follow this link.

The Library of Congress September 11 archive "preserves the web expressions of individuals, groups, the press and institutions in the United States and from around the world in the aftermath of the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. The selected web sites are composed broadly of United States and non-United States government sites; press, corporate/business, portal, charity/civic, advocacy/interest, religious, school/educational, individual/volunteer, professional organizations sites; and other sites." This collection is hosted at the Internet Archive, and the collection index lets you quickly zoom into a topical site of interest.

Borders Books and Music, October 20, 1996


Borders Books and Music maintained its own web presence in this October 20, 1996 capture. The Ann Arbor, Michigan retailer subsequently entered into a partnership with in 2001. via Wayback Machine

The Wayback Machine's history of gives clues to the now troubled book retailer's repeated attempts to master the world of online retail. The October 20, 1996 site was run by the company, and it looked like most of the rest of the Internet at that time - earnestly written text, simple graphics, and unsophisticated merchandising. By August 9, 2001, the front page of reads teamed with, with "Living Yoga - A.M./P.M. Yoga for Beginners Set" a best seller on VHS, and a full set of machine-driven recommendations provided by the superior recommender systems. By 2008, the new is online, decoupled from

Warnings, cautions and advice

Not every Internet web site or web page has been captured by the Wayback Machine, so some parts of Internet history are dark. You won't find anything from Facebook except a note: "Page cannot be crawled or displayed due to robots.txt." Quite a few pages from MLive show a screen asking you to enter your ZIP Code, year of birth and gender below for full access to our site instead of the page text.

Some pages, though they load, will have missing or broken images, or some of the fancier web technologies on the page won't work or load.

That all said, the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine is an indispensable tool for reviewing the internet history of the recent past, and the new user interface to it is easy enough to navigate that it doesn't require much of an explanation.

Edward Vielmetti has been collecting bits of the Internet for later reuse since 1985. Contact him at


Edward Vielmetti

Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 9:01 p.m.

You can even use the Wayback Machine to see old versions of the Wayback Machine. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Rod Johnson

Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

It used to absolutely drive me nuts that mlive kept asking me for my zipcode, again and again and again.


Tue, Jan 25, 2011 : 8:16 p.m.

Maybe that would be a way for me to look at all my old posts that disappeared with the new comment interface.