Whether you’re just curious to see old websites or want to find information that no longer exists on the web, knowing how to view older versions of websites can come in handy.
This article will introduce you to some tools and tricks to go back in time and view old versions of websites.
Wayback Machine is the go-to source for finding old web pages. It’s a project of the Internet Archive, a nonprofit library of websites, software, movies, and books.
Founded in 1996, Wayback Machine regularly captures and saves snapshots of thousands of websites. Currently, the website hosts a mind-boggling 672 billion web pages, which makes us believe that nothing is removed from the internet.
To find an older version of any website, type the URL into the Wayback Machine search bar. The tool then displays a year-by-year timeline with black lines indicating the time the snapshots were taken.
Below the timeline, a calendar shows the exact date and time of the screenshot. To view the snapshot, hover over the circled date and choose the time.
The chances of remembering the exact URL of a webpage that existed years ago are pretty slim. So if you forgot the URL, you can use advanced search and find the webpage by keywords. For those who need to go back in time frequently, Wayback Machine also has a browser extension and a mobile app.
If you’re worried about losing a webpage (or its current information) in the future, you can have the Wayback Machine archive it using the Back up now feature.
Behind the simple homepage of archive.today is a huge library of websites archived over the years.
To view the old version of a website, you can search for its URL. archive.today then displays all snapshots of that website in reverse chronological order. The tool also offers a few search operators to narrow down your results.
Even better, there is an option to download the webpage as a ZIP file and share the page. Like Wayback Machine, you can also request the capture and archive tool from any website for future use.
Although its library of archived websites isn’t as extensive as the Internet Archive, it can still help you discover old gems of the Internet or find information that’s no longer available. It also has a handy Chrome extension.
OldWeb.today is not just a collection of archived web pages. This website mainly extracts archives from the Internet Archive, but runs them on its old emulated browsers to take you back to the early days of the Internet.
By using this website, you can also browse the live web through older browsers. These browsers include different versions of Navigator, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Mosaic.
The results often take a long time to load, perhaps because they promise to bring back the beginnings of the internet (pun intended). Still, it’s a good website for checking out archives, reliving nostalgic websites from the 90s, or showing your kids how difficult navigation was back then.
The Library of Congress is the official archive of the US Congress that maintains a comprehensive record of books, journals, pictures, web pages, and other documents. Its Web Archive program aims to preserve all content available on the web, providing researchers with a trusted source to view web archives.
Searching for a URL on its web archive page brings up a timeline and timeline. The results page is quite similar to Wayback Machine. You can open any old web page in a new window and browse other snapshots by the Previous and Following buttons.
5. Cached pages from search engines
If you want to view the relatively recent version of a website, you can view pages cached by search engines.
To do this, find the page you want to see, click on the scrolling menu arrow next to the result URL, and click Hidden. The search engine will then display the latest cached version of the page instead of the live one. On Google you will see Hidden after clicking the three dots icon.
If you’re using Chrome and already know the exact URL whose cached version you want to view, you can add hidden : before the URL in the address bar (eg cache:makeuseof.com). This way Google will show you the cached version instead of the live page.
Beware, clicking any link on the cached page will take you to the live web. You can also use the Google Cache viewer tools for this purpose.
6. Web Cache Viewer
This extension makes viewing older versions of websites much easier. Simply go to the website whose old version you want to view, right-click on the screen and choose Web Cache Viewer. The extension opens a new window displaying the last cached page.
Although this extension fetches Internet Archive and Google Cache snapshots and has no records of its own, it allows you to easily view web archives.
To download: Web Cache Viewer for Chrome (Free)
UK Web Archive (UKWA) is another collection of old websites that aims to register all UK websites at least once a year.
Unlike most other tools, UKWA lets you search by phrase, keyword, and URL. Although some content can only be seen on the premises of the library, you can find many web pages online.
UKWA has a Subjects and Themes page which displays different archived collections categorized by interest. You can also have the website crawl and save any UK website. UKWA is a reliable and authentic source, especially for looking at old UK government websites.
Serving as a web archive aggregator, Memento Time Travel allows you to travel back in time and view old websites. Memento asks you to enter any URL and a time in the past.
It then searches for the requested webpage in dozens of online archives, including those mentioned above, and displays the snapshot closest to the date entered.
In addition to viewing the snapshot, you have the option to embed the web page in HTML format. Memento Time Travel also has a Chrome extension that lets you view the archives by right-clicking on any website.
Save web pages yourself
These web archives do an impressive job of preserving all web content and making it accessible. However, web archives are still at risk of disappearing.
So, if you have found an old version of a website and want to keep it safe for future reference, it is best to save the entire webpage to your device.
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