Betwixt Code and Music

Internet Archive to the Rescue

January 28, 20182 min read

Sometimes one finds oneself in a position where one needs to rebuild an old website. What can one do in this situation? Mayhap the website in question went dark years in the past. The original builders are but echoes in the cyber. The ones who came after to maintain the website have also gone to the great beyond out past the pixels on the horizon. But soft, what light from yonder internet breaks? It is the Internet Archive rising like the sun!

Wayback Machine Logo from the Internet Archive.

In early 2018 I found myself in a situation where a client needed some of their old website rebuilt. They came to me because their WordPress site was “deleted”. They provided the credentials for me to log in to WordPress and take inventory. Sure enough, I could see a few ancient blog post previews on the landing page for their admin portal. However, when I clicked into the “site” itself to update any data, all of it was totally gone. Somehow the site had been deleted, lost forever.

The person who was maintaining the site had transitioned a lot of the vital data to a free Google site. It was fine, but definitely lacked any personality or pizzazz. My goal was to update their site with a fresh design and give them some needed functionality that was missing from the WordPress page of yore.

Thankfully, I could search the Internet Archive and see snapshots of the website over time. I had a few key dates from the previous 5 years to view. This gave me access to a few pieces of historical data that I knew the client would want. I could also get a general sense of the former user experience when accessing their site. Using this nifty tool, I was able to provide most of the data from the lost WordPress site and build the modern needs on top of that. The client loved it!

Go try out the “Wayback Machine” yourself. Check out your own websites from long ago. Go find “Ask Jeeves” or “Alta Vista” to bring back those memories of the early World Wide Web. The earliest functioning archive of this site that I could find is at web dot archive dot org (it’s a web address, you know what to do 😜). Search for, and you’ll find some pages from not long after launch and in the 2nd week of my time at The Iron Yard-Austin code school.

After a bit of reseach, you can find amazing features of the archive that may even make you want to donate to their cause! For instance, the Archive scans in documents using OCR. This means that a normal .pdf is going to be treated like text. A user can download it and view it on their devices, even search through it. Go see what you can find, and have fun digging through the archive!

Michael D. Mathew.

Written by Mike Mathew who lives and works in Dallas building useful things. Sometimes he posts on Mastodon. Mike also wears many hats at Presto Assistant where he is a co-founder, owner, and product engineer.