50 Fun Ways to Use the Wayback Machine

Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 7:55pm by Site Administrator

Even in its short history, the Internet has gone through serious growth, often shedding old content for new developments. The Wayback Machine offers an archive of what used to be, and the results of searches on the machine are often quite fun. Here are our suggestions for amusing and useful ways to use the machine for yourself.

  1. Find old friends: Reconnect with old chat buddies from your early days online.
  2. Find a manual for your obsolete product: Have you bought a discontinued item on eBay? Get the manual from the manufacturer’s old website.
  3. Take a look at your own site’s growth: Enjoy a trip down memory lane as you track how your site has grown over time.
  4. Create a scavenger hunt: Design a fun hunting game that uses the Wayback Machine to find quirky bits from yesterday’s Internet.
  5. Track the commercialization of the Internet: Marvel at how the Internet has become a great tool for marketing and sales.
  6. Check out your site’s history: If you bought your domain name from someone, see what it looked like before you got your hands on it.
  7. Research a website you’d like to buy: The Wayback Machine is an excellent domainer research tool. Find out if a seller is yanking your chain about any statistics and history by plugging it into the archive.
  8. Find old school photos: Check out your old school’s online newsletter to find dorky photos of yourself.
  9. Save a lost site: If your hosting company dropped off the face of the earth, use the Wayback Machine to recover some of your work.
  10. Reminisce about your old resume: Find your old online resume and enjoy a look back at old jobs.
  11. Create an Internet timeline: Track the Internet’s history, or your own, complete with screenshots.
  12. Review the history of Internet porn: Take a look at how online porn has evolved over the years.
  13. Research conspiracy theories: Sites may be taken down, but with the archive, you can still see what others may not have wanted you to find.
  14. Clear your name: If someone accuses you of stealing information, prove to them you had it online first.
  15. Find old crappy GIFs: Remember when the Internet was full of stupid smiley animations? Check out the Wayback Machine to snag a few and harass people with them.
  16. View a suspended site: Did you go to check out a cool site, only to find out the owner didn’t pay their bill, or overloaded the server? Use the Wayback Machine to pull it up.
  17. Show punk kids how cool you used to be: Know a kid who thinks MySpace is about the coolest thing the Internet has ever done? Let them take a look at some of your old favorite sites.
  18. Settle a bet about who’s been online longer: Show your buddy that you found the Internet 4 months before he did by finding old forum posts.
  19. Create a PDF copy of an old ezine: Retrieve old issues, and preserve them for later reading.
  20. Learn from bad design: Take a look at sites from the early Internet to learn about what not to do.
  21. Reminisce about your old dotcom job: Visit your dot-com’s defunct site and think about the way things used to be.
  22. Compare historical prices: Find out how much a seller paid for the item you’re buying today.
  23. Compare page versions: Analyze how a page has changed by comparing two versions side by side.
  24. Retrive lost content: Find your old resume, papers, and more.
  25. Check out stock prices: See how stock prices have risen and fallen in the past decade or so.
  26. Nail a content thief: Prove that you published content before a thief did, and you’ve got a rock solid case against them.
  27. Make fun of old predictions that never came true: Find sites that predicted the sky would fall on a certain day, and laugh when you realize that day was 5 years ago.
  28. Enjoy pre-coverage of Y2K: Read press releases and worried postings about how Y2K was supposed to screw everything up.
  29. Figure out why you dropped in search engine rankings: Take a look at old stuff that used to work to your advantage, and figure out what you need to bring back.
  30. Take a look at past elections: Revisit the hype of now-forgotten candidates of elections past.
  31. Marvel at the early years of the Internet: In the Web Pioneers collection, you can see some of the sites that shaped the Internet.
  32. Blackmail: This one’s easy. Just find something embarassing on your friend, and screenshot it for future blackmailing.
  33. Check out old promotional sites: See how sites like McDonald’s and Pepsi jumped on the Internet in the early years.
  34. See how generic domain names have evolved: Take a look at the way sites like Porn.com and Milk.com have changed over the years.
  35. Find embarassing old photos: Get photos that have been long taken down, and use them to torture friends and family.
  36. See ads for old cars: Remember what your car looked like when it was brand new.
  37. Research historical prices: See how the cost of software and more has gone up through the years.
  38. Research potential employees: Before you hire someone, see if you can dig up any dirt on them with the machine.
  39. Find deleted LiveJournal entries: Did someone delete a particularly juicy entry? Find it with the Wayback Machine.
  40. Check out pre-"404" pages: Satisfy your curiosity and find out what existed before a page went bad.
  41. Laugh at failed business plans: Check out past business plans of corporations that failed.
  42. Find the goofy website your boss built: Discover your boss’ old crappy website devoted to cats.
  43. Research the past of political candidates: See what political candidates were saying a few years ago.
  44. Check out wedding websites of divorced couples: See the calm before the storm, and look for signs of impending doom.
  45. Research religious wackos: Find out what crazy ideas cults and other strange religious groups have published in the past.
  46. Find out how long your competitor has been established: Figure out whether or not your "first on the web" claim stands up.
  47. Preserve old sites for nostalgia’s sake: If you miss old communities, save your own copy of them with the machine.
  48. Find old news stories: Check out breaking news coverage now that it’s not so "breaking" anymore.
  49. See how big name web sites used to look amateur: Check out sites that have become large, but started out very small.
  50. Check out dot-com casualties in their heyday: See what failed sites like Pets.com used to look like.


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