Internet archaeology • 25 July 2008 • The SnowBlog
I have had a completely traumatic week, because of a personal something that I'm not at liberty to discuss on the blog, but for which it would be very useful if I could find a webpage from March 2008 - now deleted - that proves a certain thing. So I've been researching caching, archiving and recovery of old web pages, and in my travels I've come across The Wayback Machine - and oh my god, it's awesome.
Run by archive.org - the Internet Archive - the Wayback machine (named in reference to the famous Mr. Peabody's WABAC (pronounced way-back) machine from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show) is a service that allows people to visit archived versions of Web sites. Sadly it couldn't find me my bit of evidence, but hoo boy, did it make up for it in other ways. So of course the first thing I checked out was snowbooks.com. There's a snapshot of our homepage from December 2003 which I have no recollection of - but there it is. Then recorded there for posterity are all the iterations thereafter: early 2004, before we had published a thing, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007. Some of the images are missing; many of the links weren't archived but it's fascinating to remember these old designs and words.
Then I looked up what Amazon.co.uk looked like in 1999. Answer: not much different, but their recruitment page from 1999 is a hoot. "Founded just five years ago, Amazon.com is the leading online retailer of books and music and one of the most widely used and cited commerce sites on the World Wide Web." I wonder if they still do this: "Stock options are awarded to every employee that we hire to promote a sense of ownership, focus activity on critical business issues and reward us all in the event of long-term success." Pity about 2001, eh.
I also looked at google. Here's their prototype page from 1998. Here's their beta page from 1999. This stuff makes me tingle! It's proper history, but so recent.
I think we should do a book on this - but to be honest, it's much more fun to see these sites in situ, on a screen. It's amazing. Hours of fun for all. I'm going to look up The Bookseller (1998), now, and Play.com (1996), and Boo.com (1999) (here's a corker, 'designed for 56k modems and above'", and ebay (1998) and the BBC in 1997 (dead funny) and the Guardian...