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By Tech Live staff


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The Web is a vital source of information and a powerful record of the news events and cultural preoccupations of a given moment. As the Web evolves, some of those records could be lost. That's why the Internet Archive is stepping in to help preserve them. Today Cat takes a trip back in time with the Wayback Machine to show you how it works.


The Wayback Machine allows people to visit archived versions of stored websites.


Type a URL.


Select a date.


Begin surfing on an archived version of the website.


For now, going "way back" means back to 1996. Archivists collect data every two months, so users will be able to find what a website looked like during a 60-day period, not necessarily on a particular date. Even the project's organizers admit they won't be able to save much of the Web's past.


"A lot of homepages are gone," said Internet Archive Director Brewster Kahle. "Most webpages that were around in 1996 aren't here anymore, and some of the best webpages are out of print."


Kahle began working on the Internet Archive in 1996. Last year, the archive became the purveyor of the largest text collection in existence -- its holdings surpass even those of the Library of Congress, Kahle said. The Library of Congress, Xerox PARC, IBM, and the Smithsonian are among many research groups working with the Internet Archive to store their data for posterity.


The Wayback Machine was designed to provide historians and other scholars with a research tool. However, Kahle said, the project also has practical purposes for Web designers, attorneys, and journalists.


The database can store 100 terabytes of data, the equivalent of tens of millions of books. Kahle said he hopes the Wayback Machine will eventually be able to locate all publicly available sites.


Other areas of the site, such as the Moving Image Archive also hope to preserve culture. It holds almost 1,000 films, digitized by the Prelinger Archives, that focus on everday life, culture, and industry.


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