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#Usefulwebsites: The Internet Wayback Machine

I remember the day I discovered the Internet Wayback Machine – I’d been knee deep in a forum conversation in the wee small hours when someone made reference to this online time machine.

I clicked the link to test it out, and when first greeted with the search bar tentatively typed in the very first domain name I ever bought for my very first website built many, many moons ago when the Spice Girls were in the charts the first time around.

Basically, what the Wayback Machine does is roll around the internet saving different versions of websites. It is without regularity, but it’s a general rule of thumb I’ve found that the older a site is, the more chance is that the Wayback Machine has saved a copy.

Imagine then, if you will, the feeling which was equal parts teary nostalgia and cringe-inducing shame that I felt when I found my first website in the results. I clicked the date on the calendar and in a few moments, the cache version of my website was displayed proudly for the world to see. This poor site had been constructed in my early years (when my online naivety clearly knew no bounds) to teach myself about website design and also as a handy place to store my university homework online.

I won’t bore you with the details, or for that matter the actual domain name, but the site in today’s terms was both technically and aesthetically shocking, hosting more GIF’s than what was probably healthy for a single person.

If you’re not sure what a GIF is, it’s a single file that is a moving image. Whilst these are often used on social media (as an example, look up reaction GIF’s on your Twitter account if you have one) back in my day moving GIF’s were simply badly animated, pixelated, epilepsy inducing items one could choose to host on their page. In fact, I must remember to write a blog post on why these are a bad idea at some point.

 

via GIPHY

However, getting back to the Internet Wayback Machine, apart from it being an excellent resource to make yourself cringe at any old social media profiles (three cheers for Myspace!) it’s brilliant for bringing up old versions of your website to compare and contrast.

Whilst here at EKM, currently I don’t yet have a real EKM shop of my own. I have an account I use for testing of course, but not a real shop with real products and payment gateways. With this in mind, I’ll use one of my hobby sites to show you how the Internet Wayback Machine works.

Step 1: Click https://archive.org/web/ or paste it into your browser address bar.

Step 2: Type your domain name, with the ‘www’s into the search bar, and then press the grey Browse History button to your right:

Step 3: This will then reveal the results of the search, which look like this:

At the top of the page, you’ll see how many times the site has been visited by the Internet Wayback Machine (beneath this there’s also a link that you can follow to donate to this invaluable resource, which I’d strongly encourage you to do!). There’s then a bar which details what years the site was visited, with a black stripe representing exactly when. It’s always fun to click to see the earliest incarnation of your site, so for our demonstration purposes, let’s go click on the 2012 box:

Step 4: This shows the calendar results for 2012, and if you look at December, the site was crawled once in 2012. If you click the 4th of December and follow it through to the old cached version of this site, you’ll notice that there’s a blank space at the top of the homepage, which is completely normal. This is because the image – or in the case of my example site, it was a slideshow- was hosted elsewhere or the images no longer exist on the site, then the Wayback Machine won’t display them.

The same applies to your own EKM site – if you look at an earlier version of your site, some of the Design Images might not be there- if they no longer exist on your website, the cached version of your site from the Wayback Machine won’t be able to display them.

With this in mind, now you know how the Wayback Machine works, it really is worth saving in your browser’s Favourites. I’ve lost count of how many times products have been deleted by accident but by sheer luck have had their details retrieved using the Wayback Machine; the same goes for images hosted elsewhere – if the site has been crawled by this fantastic resource, the chances are that it’s saved your bacon!

What are you waiting for?

Your own successful online shop is just a click away