The Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization with headquarters in San Francisco, California, established The Wayback Machine as a digital archive of the World Wide Web. It was developed in 1996 and made available to the general public in 2001. It enables users to “rewind time” and view websites as they appeared in the past. Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat, the Wayback Machine’s creators, created it in an effort to enable “universal access to all knowledge” by archiving old web pages.
The Wayback Machine was introduced on May 10, 1996, and as of the end of 2009, it included more than 38.2 million recordings. The computer had more than 700 billion online pages saved as of July 2022. Every day, more than a million new online pages are added.
The Wayback Machine was created in 1996 by the Internet Archive’s founder, Brewster Kahle, and Bruce Gilliat, a doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to support the organization’s aim of providing all people with access to knowledge.
The Wayback Machine began archiving cached web pages in 1996. One of the earliest known pages was saved on May 10, 1996 at 2:42 p.m.
Internet Archive founders Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat launched the Wayback Machine in San Francisco, California, in October 2001, primarily to address the problem of web content vanishing whenever it gets changed or when a website is shut down.
The service enables users to see archived versions of web pages across time, which the archive calls a “three-dimensional index”. Kahle and Gilliat created the machine hoping to archive the entire Internet and provide “universal access to all knowledge”.
The name “Wayback Machine” is a reference to a fictional time-traveling and translation device, the “Wayback Machine”, used by the characters Mister Peabody and Sherman in the animated cartoon The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends.
In one of the cartoon’s segments, “Peabody’s Improbable History”, the characters used the machine to witness, participate in, and often alter famous events in history.
From 1996 to 2001, the information was kept on digital tape, with Kahle occasionally allowing researchers and scientists to tap into the “clunky” database.
When the archive reached its fifth anniversary in 2001, it was unveiled and opened to the public in a ceremony at the University of California, Berkeley. By the time the Wayback Machine launched, it already contained over 10 billion archived pages.
The data is stored on the Internet Archive’s large cluster of Linux nodes. It revisits and archives new versions of websites on occasion (see technical details below). Sites can also be captured manually by entering a website’s URL into the search box, provided that the website allows the Wayback Machine to “crawl” it and save the data.
On October 30, 2020, the Wayback Machine began fact-checking content. As of January 2022, domains of ad servers are disabled from capturing.
For Internet Archive’s 25th anniversary, the Wayback Machine introduced the “Wayforward Machine” which allowed users to “travel to the Internet in 2046, where knowledge is under siege”.