A truly digital online archive is a special kind of rabbit hole, strange to climb into for two reasons. First of all, the history is so recent—few web archives can take you back to the 1990s, even—and yet so much about the look and feel of the internet has changed dramatically. Secondly, most of the best web archives are still deeply broken. They offer only a deteriorating echo of what once existed and link rot is everywhere.
And yet snapshot views of the web can be a fascinating way to capture the flavor of the internet as it once was. This is how the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine organizes its screen captures—you can search various sites by how they looked on certain days—and it’s how Techmeme’s ingenious new timestamp works.
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