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Technology moves fast. Sometimes it is fun to see what websites looked like in the past. There are other good reasons you might want to view an older version of a website.
Most websites change over time. The site may go through a redesign, some content might be deleted, and sometimes entire sites will go offline.
Viewing an older version of a website can be helpful in certain situations.
- You want to find older content from a website.
- You need to recreate a resource that’s no longer available online.
- You want to have screenshots to show before and after a website redesign.
- You want to discover the content that was on a site at a particular point in time for a lawsuit.
There are many examples of agency E&O lawsuits where the attorney has looked up older versions of an agency website against them at trial.
A couple of services keep track of websites and allow you to search for older versions by date.
Below are two tools that create screenshot archives of website pages. These tools crawl the web and record snapshots at different points in time and archive those website pages.
1. The Wayback Machine
The Wayback Machine is maintained by the Internet Archive. It is a digital library of the internet. The Wayback Machine has over 554 billion archived web pages. It allows you to easily find screenshots of old websites at different points in time.
To use this tool, navigate to the Wayback Machine website, enter the website URL you want to check, and click Browse History.
You will see the results as a graph with the various dates where copies of the website were made. Click the top bar to sort by different years.
Below that, you see a calendar breakdown. When you click on a particular day, a popup will show the time the screenshot was taken.
Once you click the time you want, a cached graphic of the page will load for you to see. You can right-click to view the site in a new tab.
2. Library of Congress Web Archive
Another site to check out is the Library of Congress. They have a very large digital collection of books, audio recordings, newspapers, and websites.
They also have a website archive search tool that is similar to the Wayback Machine described above. If you can’t find an old version of the website with the Wayback Machine, give this tool a try.
To use this tool simply navigate to the Library of Congress Web Archives, enter the website’s URL, and click the search icon.
You may not need to use these tools very often, but they come in handy when you need to research what a website looked like in the past.
What other tools have you found helpful?
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