Undeleting the Web

Wayback Machine

It sucked me in better than a fantastic novel. It was a conversation posted in 1999 on a newsgroup (a predecessor to the blog). It was the heated dialog that hooked me. I had recently met someone who practiced a religion about which I knew nothing, so I plugged the name of the religion into a search engine to see what I could learn.

I soon realized that if you Google the name of any religion, your results will include web sites created by both passionate followers and disgruntled former followers (apostates) of the religion.
I was intrigued by a published newsgroup conversation launched by an apostate-turned so vehemently against my friend's religion that every other sentence of his rant was in all caps under red, shouting headlines. The author's allegations of wrongdoing by this church were so bizarre and extreme that I couldn't stop reading.

Furious followers of this religion came to its defense, posting responses that chastised this guy -often with profanity, more capitalized words and multiple exclamation points!!!

Apparently, the apostate had his own web site that detailed more specific information about the egregious practices of this church. I clicked a link to see his site and got a "Page not found," error.

As I continued to surf, I discovered many references to this particular web site, but all the links were dead. On another newsgroup, this same apostate claimed to have received death threats because of his web site -now I really wanted to see it and my wife joined me in an all out Internet search for this expository website that had spawned death threats that seemed to have worked. We couldn't find the site, nor even a quote from it anywhere on the web.

Five years later, I happened upon a delicious web tool whose power delighted me. The Internet Archive, a non profit organization, operates an index called the Wayback Machine. (Taken from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in which Mr. Peabody and his assistant, Sherman, use a time machine.) The Wayback Machine offers snapshots of the web at different points in time. Over 85 billion web pages reside in the Wayback Machine's archives, requiring over two petabytes (two million gigabytes) of storage space.

Any web surfer who wishes to see what a particular web site looked like on a given date as far back as 1996 can find it here. The introduction of time when used with the Wayback Machine gives a three dimensional image of the web's growth. Type in a web address and you see a linear timeline of date links. Click on the date of your choice and your web site, as it was on that date, appears on the page.

With little effort I found the apostate's web as it was in the year 2000. I saw why it incited so much anger. The ability to zoom back in time satisfied my curiosity.

Now I'm searching for an online Wayahead Machine. I've got some Super Lotto numbers to look up.

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