Using Internet Archive / Wayback Machine for investigations

Investigators have a common question: what if I could go back in time to see what a website looked like a year ago?  Or even 3 years ago?  What about a week ago?  The Internet Archive provides just such a capability.  Inspired by the fictional WABAC machine from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which Professor Peabody used to go back to past eras in time, the “Wayback Machine” by the Internet Archive also goes back in time on the Internet.  Although it can be used in that capacity, it is critical to be aware of its limitations as well.   In fact there are active legal discussion on its admissibility as evidence in court.  See Onward Multi-Corp. Inc. v. Empire Comfort Systems, Inc., 2010 TMOB 29 (CanLII) or this discussion for US-based case law or this paper.

Archive Overview

Over 240 billion webpages are archived from 1996 up to today.   Popular websites are archived more frequently than others, and the website needs to be at least 6 months old for the Wayback Machine to pick it up.  It updates the version on record a minimum of once every 6 months.  Below is a survey of its use in popular websites / social media / e-commerce for investigations …


The most popular social networking site out there shuts the door on Internet Archive and many other search crawlers due to its robots.txt file.  Google provides a limited view of the users in Facebook, but can’t penetrate into the network due to similar restrictions Facebook imposes on its Web Crawler.



No further details available than the screenshot below: Twitter is not supported on Internet Archive.



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