Wayback Machine

Wayback Machine copy of the Flying Twigs Home Page in July 2014

The Wayback Machine or Internet Archive keeps copies (sometimes incomplete) of billions of websites. Its mission is to preserve them for posterity. The Wayback Machine is an initiative of the Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit. It is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.

Out of curiosity I checked what the home page of Flying Twigs looked like. I went back as far back as I could find a reference, and here it is. As you can see, the Wayback Machine hasn’t kept copies of all the thumbnails of the images. Overall, though, it gives a good idea of what the home page looked like.

I looked for our home page out of curiosity. The archive has sometimes been used, though, to settle a contested version of the past. For example, when a political figure deletes a contentious article from their own web site. It seems to be gone forever, but a copy has been archived that they cannot eradicate. Or when someone is trying to prove that their creation occurred earlier than someone else’s creation. These are good purposes, but they don’t cover everything that has been put on the Internet. Certainly though, it is the motivation behind some paid-for services that will time-stamp and save a digital copy. They promise that it will remain ‘forever’. There are also services that scour for copies that claim to be original but that are just that – ‘copies’.

In The Digital World, What Does ‘Original’ Mean

This highlights the essential problem with digital anything – that the copy is as exact as the original. We can no longer say this is the original and this is the copy, just from looking at the two of them. One copy is the same as another, unless the first has a fixed, non-reproducible time-stamp buried in it. And that is not an easy or certain task.

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