The Wayback Machine is knowledge storage on a colossal scale: maintained by the Internet Archive, it’s a repository of how everything looked on the internet in the past. But the biggest libraries are the hardest to organise, which is why the equivalent of £1.2 million is being spent to give the Wayback Machine its very own Google.
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation announced yesterday that it’s donating just under $2 million to develop a search engine for the Wayback Machine. Why should you care?
Well, the internet searchable with Google is only a fraction of the stuff that’s been online throughout history. The Wayback Machine has snapshots of basically every webpage going back in time, but with a catch: you need to know the exact URL you want to see historical versions.
A well-designed search engine would give historians (and serial creepers) unparalleled access to search through past pages. On average, pages only last in their original form for 100 days before being deleted. To that end, the Wayback Machine is a fantastic way to see how things have been stealthily edited to change the public record.
The search engine should be available sometime in 2017, so you’ve still got a year or two to delete your dirt off the web.