Perhaps it is just my imagination, but the Wayback Machine gets much less publicity than it deserves. It is a one of a kind tool that no one else can offer: a freely accessible archive of most websites since 1996. Records of almost every website are kept, a huge amount of data. The Wayback Machine is a service run by the Internet Archive, a non-profit organization. It is amazing to see websites a decade ago and marvel at what has changed (and hasn’t). For example look at this post in Slashdot in 1998. The Wayback Machine is very useful for web designers who can directly see how the design of past sites have changed over the years, such as how yahoo’s homepage evolved to what it is now.
There are however major problems with the Wayback Machine. Pages are slow, many images are missing, and sometimes entire entries are broken. Also many pages were never crawled because it was blocked by the site as specified in robots.txt. Obviously most scripts won’t work (you can’t go to amazon in 1998 and buy some books for your past self). Very strange things happen sometimes such as a mishmash of things from the past and present on the same page.
Although there are serious flaws, the Wayback Machine is an invaluable tool for geeks, web designers, and historians alike. I wonder why don’t more people use it.
Here are a couple interesting sites from the past: