Extinction isn’t just a biological issue. In the 21st century, it’s a technical, even digital one, too.
The average web page might last three months before it’s altered or deleted forever. You never know when access to the information on these web pages is going to be needed. It might be three months from now; it might be three decades. That’s how the Wayback Machine serves—making history by saving history. Now, the Wayback Machine is fighting digital extinction in brand new ways.
As the Internet Archive prepares for its anniversary celebration on Oct. 23, our Wayback Team is unveiling some new features to make what some call “the memory of the web” even more detailed and responsive.
Try out some of our new Wayback Machine Features:
- Changes: a new service enabling users to select two different versions of a given URL and compare them side by side. Differences in the text of the content are highlighted in yellow and blue.
Just click the “Changes” link at the top of the “Calendar View” page to find an index of archives of the selected URL with a high-level indicator of the degree of change between the available archives. When no content has changed, the page appears in the same color. You can then select any two archived versions of the page so they can be rendered side-by-side with the changes between them highlighted in blue and yellow. Best of all you can then share this “Changes” URL with others (e.g. via Twitter or embedded in a news story) so others can easily see the changes as well.
- Save Page Now: an updated version of perhaps the most popular feature of the Wayback Machine. Of particular import is the new ability to archive all the embedded links and outlinks (connections to external web sites) with just one click.
Also new is the ability for users to save web archives in a public directory of favorite items. It’s essentially a personal but public bookmarking system of pages that others can follow. Imagine how important this might be for future researchers, family members or fans interested in the web pages you chose to personally save for all time.
- Collections: A new way to learn about why a given URL has been archived into the Wayback Machine. Start by clicking the “Collections” link at the top of any “Calendar View” page. You will then be shown a list of all the collections that this URL is included in, plus you can select individual playback URLs from any of those Collections. Click on the Collection name to learn more about its provenance. And if it was created as part of the Internet Archive’s Archive-It service, you can execute full-text searches on archived web pages that are part of that collection.
- Show All Captures: The Wayback Machine archives some URLs many times a day. In some cases hundreds, or even thousands of times a day. While all of those captures have been available for playback, the calendar view would only show a sampling of those captures. The new Show All Captures feature now presents a list of each and every capture available per day, even for captures that are made seconds apart.
Who will be using these new features? Earlier this month, Mark Graham, the Wayback Machine’s director, got a request from a TV journalist for help—not just for something Trumpian or Brexit-ish. Instead, the just-married journalist saw that her wedding day web page was about to expire and wanted to be sure it would be preserved. Using the new and improved Save Page Now, she was able to preserve the page (including all outlinks) with one click.
The Environmental Data and Government Initiative (EDGI) partners with the Wayback Machine in its work monitoring government websites with particular emphasis on environmental issues. Our new Changes feature will help them track and publicize how government agencies are deleting and altering information about climate change and environmental protection issues, by comparing and publishing web pages side-by-side.
Graham underscores that the Wayback Machine, which has many scholarly, historical and journalistic uses, “is relevant to how you live in the United States today. Wayback Machine captures are even admissible in many courts.”
“It can be used for holding people and governments accountable,” he said. “At the same time, it can be used for other things, like a bride’s request to preserve a wedding page.”
Fighting digital extinction, the Wayback Machine way.