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Archive.org is a powerful asset for retrieving or accessing “old” website content.

Knowledge is power

Have you wanted to see your favorite childhood website again before it got taken down? Or see how a website was when it was first released? Well, let me shed some light on this subject! 

What is Archive.org?

Archive.org is a digital library that stores content to avoid getting lost. They keep content like books, movies, software, music, websites, audio, pictures, etc. Using the Way Back Machine, people can search for archived content, such as old versions of websites. Overall, Archive.org’s purpose is to provide free access to information to everyone who seeks it.

The history of the Internet Archive

Internet Archive started by archiving information to record what people published and use it differently. The internet archive was founded after the World Wide Web was released in 1996. Brewster Kahle, who was also involved in creating Alexa, created the internet archive. The developers of the internet archive thought that they could connect people and ideas and build upon them to make the world a more innovative place. After five years of archived information, the Way Back Machine was released in 2001. This gave the public access to the internet archive and its content.

How does it work?

All of the archived information is located on hard drives and servers in a building in San Francisco, California. The Way Back Machine is one of the ways to access some of the information in the archives. Users of archive.org can upload content to the archive, though most of the content is uploaded through web crawlers. Web crawlers are bots that automatically search the World Wide Web to store the contents of the websites they visit.

How do you use Archive.org?

Accessing the content in Archive.org is simple. You can search for a website’s archived information on the homepage through the Way Back Machine’s search bar. If you are looking for audio recordings or books, they would be located on the top menu. There are also collections of archives that are accessible if you scroll down below the Way back Machine’s search bar.

Why should you use it?

Archive.org can be useful for many things. Archive.org can be used for entertainment as the archives contain plenty of movies, books, and games. You could also use it for research. Using the filters, you could find content relating to historical events and view how those events affected the internet and how people responded. This is especially useful if you need to find a direct source for your research.

Here are some real-life examples of uses for Archive.org:

  • Want to watch a free movie or read a book created in the 1990s.
  • Have a history project that requires you to find a news article that shows the life of citizens in America in WW2.
  • You are curious about what Alaska Airlines’ website looked like back in 2000.
  • Find inspiration for 1900s ads for a game you are developing.
  • Retrieve content from a deleted website.
  • You want to preserve a family video.

There are still so many things you can do with Archive.org, and the content in it can even be used for evidence in court. The archive can also be used to access old court documents. This could be useful if you are studying law or finding a reference for a case.

How do you add the Archives?

Uploading content to the internet archive is straightforward. You would need to find the upload icon near your profile icon and select the files you would like to upload. Although there is a substantial amount of content stored in the archives, there is always more information that can be stored. Adding your content to the archives will prevent it from being lost and allow your content to be accessed by others.

Why is Archive.org so important?

Archive.org preserves historical information on the web and allows the public to access it for free. Before learning about a subject, it is essential to understand its history before creating its future, which archive.org can assist. Overall, Archive.org supports free public knowledge and, as a result, empowers the public.

What is the Open Library Project?

Open Library is a free digital lending library that contains over 2 million eBooks that can be read in a browser or downloaded. 20 million+ books have a page in the library. This project also creates a web page for every book published. Anyone can participate in this project as the software, data, and documentation are open to the public.

The Open Library project is currently working on diversifying the books. They are trying to localize the website into ten languages, and they now have contributions for translations across seven languages, including Čeština, Deutsch, English, Español, Français, Hrvatski, and తెలుగు. In the past, translators would have a conversation with the staff and submit their translations for review. Then the team would report if there was a mistake. This process resulted in many incomplete translation submissions. In 2021, the community automated validation to get faster feedback, and submitting translations was much more straightforward. With this new change, their goal of localizing the library will be in sight.

What is the Bookmobile Project?

Bookmobile is a project that the archive took on September 30th, 2002. Bookmobiles transport books to readers and libraries in remote areas to expand literature. They are typically transported by cars, but throughout history were also transported through wagons, bikes, donkeys, horses, mules, etc. Archive’s bookmobile also brings books across throughout towns in America, but they have a much more comprehensive range as it’s all digital. They carry an entire digital library and print out books for people.

Bookmobile does this by downloading public domain books from the internet through a satellite. They have traveled from San Francisco to Washington DC, stopping at local schools, libraries, and retirement homes to print out books for them. Versions of Bookmobile have also been used in other countries like Egypt and Uganda.

Other Projects

The archive has other projects such as 301works.org, BookServer, Education, Petabox, and Political TV Ad Archive. 301works.org is the service for archiving URL mappings to protect users of short URL services from providing transparency and permanence of their mapping.

A book server is an open architecture used for vending, lending, and distributing books through the internet. This allows catalogs of books to be accessed by readers through their laptops, phones, netbooks, or any other reading devices.

The Education Project is a library that contains free courses, lectures, and supplemental materials from universities in the US and China to provide universal access to all knowledge. The Internet Archive designed the Petabox project to store and process a petabyte of information safely. This was made to make a storage system that was low power, high density, low cost, and easy to maintain. The Political TV Ad Archive provides access to political TV ads of 2016 that have been fact-checked.

Legal issues involving Archive.org

The internet archive launched the National Emergency Library during the pandemic on March 24th, 2020. They suspended waitlists from borrowing e-books which created a copyright problem by allowing the public to view and use an artist’s work without their consent or compensation. The Internet Archive’s goal was to support remote teaching, research activities, and independent scholarships when releasing this feature. They believed it was essential to have it while schools, training centers, and libraries were closed.

The National Emergency Library was eventually shut down three months later, on June 16th, 2020. This was due to four publishers: Wiley & Sons, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, and Penguin Random House, filing a lawsuit in federal court for willful mass copyright infringement. They believed that the National Emergency Library misunderstood the cost of creating books and disrespected contributors involved in the publication process. Brewster Kahle made a statement about this lawsuit, claiming that Libraries have always gathered books and lent them and believed that this process supports publishing.

What is the Way Forward Machine?

The Way Forward Machine is a simulation of the future dystopian internet. This was created for the Internet Archive’s 25th anniversary. When you go to the webpage, you are asked to enter the URL of the website you would like to view. If you enter the URL correctly, you will see the homepage in the background blurred out by ads requesting personal information, such as a retina scan or your thumbprint. After viewing the ads, a popup appears on the right, requesting the user’s help fighting internet freedom, where knowledge is universal. If you exit the ad, another one appears, possibly asking for payment to continue to the website you wanted to get.

After clicking learn more, it takes you to a website that gives a timeline of the events that led up to what the user saw. In that dystopian timeline, it tells us events that happened, such as monopolies, defunding, the shutting down of libraries, and the destruction of historical objects. Overall creates an unsettling feeling, urging the user to act. This recently added feature aims to provide users the experience of what the internet would be like without free knowledge across the world and gather people to fight for understanding and join their cause.

Future of Archive.org

The Internet Archive has stated that they are working towards equal power distribution. Big corporations have a lot of power, therefore controlling more information on the internet. The developers of the Internet Archive have acknowledged this. Though they have stated the internet archive would not be able to fix this alone, they hope to improve the internet by creating universal knowledge of the correct information.