The Internet Never Forgets

Ever got nostalgic about that old website you used to read ten years ago? Wish you could access “the latest internet news” from 1999 on the Millennium bug, for your research? Wonder if you can still access that website you deleted five years ago?

Well, there’s a fair chance you can, using the Internet Archive “Wayback Machine” . You need to know the url of the site you want (no keyword search, yet) but it’s been archiving the web since 1996.

Problem solved
I’ve been very grateful for it this week, as I’m on a tight deadline to write material for a new website. Frustratingly, I knew we’d already written much of this for a previous version of the Careers Service website, the pages of which, inexplicably, disappeared. Luckily that’s when I was reminded about the Internet Archive, and yes, our old Netwise site from 2001 is still there, so expect to see a fair chunk of it “re-purposed” in the near future.

Anything you’d like deleted?
Of course there are good and bad sides of old websites still being accessible. If an employer really wants to find out what you were up to years ago, the evidence might still be there. However, they’d need to know which old website to look at, and until there’s  the facility to search the archive for a name, you’re probably safe unless the employer’s really determined.

And there’s more
The Internet Archive is also a treasure store for thousands of moving images, audio and text. Don’t expect to see Hollywood blockbusters streamed on there, but the culture which gave rise to this wonderful archive is amply demonstrated by the categories under “Audio” – of the 12 categories, there’s a whole section of 7,600+ items devoted to the Grateful Dead

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2 comments on “The Internet Never Forgets

  1. That ought to be illegal- particularly if they add a search engine which they will in due course. Aside from it being a potential breach of copyright people delete old data for reasons like privacy and personal security. That is without the issue of material that is put up about people without their consent. I have been a victim of this, it took me two years and a lot of effort and even the need of legal aid to finally get rid of it. Whoever made this site ought to be jailed.

    • Hi Nel

      Really sorry if this has got you worried. I can absolutely understand that you would be angry if material which you’ve fought hard to have removed is then archived and available for all to see.

      However, if it’s your own content, I understand you can ask for it not to be archived. The Internet Archive FAQ has their exclusion policy and information on how to automatically exclude content on web pages you own.

      As for jailing them, I don’t think I can agree with that, otherwise all the other academic archivists would be joining them. They only archive content which is in the public domain, I guess like the British Library holding published content, including newspapers which may later prove to be inaccurate or libellous.

      I’d be interested to get any archivist, information scientist or historians’ view on this though.

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