Old Versions of Website Pages, Are They Out There Somewhere?

Time travel website pages that echo from the past

Websites are updated regularly to improve their appearance, use the latest technology and generally move with emerging trends. Although, sometimes it’s interesting to rediscover old versions of website pages to see where a website has originally come from. How the website’s pages may have evolved over the years, or possibly devolved over the years!

Old Versions of Website - Lets go Back

Well, there is a tool that makes this possible called The Way Back Machine by the Internet Archive. It takes a website snapshot history by storing pages into an archive for later viewing.

How to view the website snapshot history

Wayback Machine

Firstly, head on over to The Way Back Machine and type in a URL or domain into the search box. In the screen capture above I’ve used youtube.com as an example search. On enter, The Way Back Machine will return a sequential timeline of dates where webpage snapshots have been taken. Along with a date selector for picking the date when a page was captured and stored into the archive. You can see these dates highlighted on the calendar.

Note, when clicking the date a selection box displays with various times of the date. To get the web page to display you need to actually click the time. The reason for this is that there may be multiple time archive times during the course of the day.

I think the usability could be a little better here if there is only one time to should go straight the page. I find myself constantly waiting for the page load and then think, oh yes, I need to click the time!

Old versions of website pages can be quite revealing

Below you’ll find a screen capture of YouTube made on 28 April 2005. A good deal of the page was developed with the Adobe Flash plugin so I’m unable to view. Maybe if you have this securely installed you might be able to view.

However, what I found interesting was the section under the login, I’m a Male seeking Everyone between 18 and 45. So it appears YoutTube may have originally had a sort of dating style angle in the original days. Kind of interesting. I’m sure there’s more to this story somewhere out on the web.

Youtube Matchmaker

Other uses for using The Way Back Machine maybe forms of competitive analysis. It possibly may be useful to see written copy that a company have had on their website previously that has been removed.

Also, if purchasing a website that’s on the market for sale. Having a look at a website’s history before making the decision to buy. I’m sure there are quite a few reasons where viewing old versions of website pages would come in handy.

Also, another important note. Usually, only some of the important pages end up being archived, depending on the size and popularity of the website. You will almost always be able to view the home page. The subpages will vary from site to site.

As a bit of fun, here’s one of the original Google beta pages which is hosted at Stanford University 11 November 1998.

Old Versions of Website Pages - Google

How to archive a web page that you have created

You can also add the internet archive by submitting your own pages. There is a section called “Save Page Now” that allows you to enter a web page URL. On clicking the Save Page button The Back Machine will crawl that page and save the page contents into the archive.

Archive a Web Page