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The Wayback Machine is an internet archive project maintained by Internet Archive, a nonprofit, and Alexa Internet, a public company owned by Amazon. The purpose of the Wayback Machine is to collect as much content as possible from the web that might otherwise be lost when websites change or close down. The project evolved through the use of sophisticated web crawlers that attempt to download accessible world wide web pages and other resources.
The program that runs the Wayback Machine archive was developed in 1996, but the site did not launch until 2001. Since its launch, the Wayback Machine has archived hundreds of billions of web pages, and logged many hundreds and thousands of terabytes of data. The Wayback Machine has been useful for legal discovery, intellectual property rights research, and in journalistic efforts to uncover facts about stories and subjects that had at one time appeared on the world wide web.
Users can go to the site and enter a website's URL to get an archive history for that site, and to pull up pages or resources that have been erased or are no longer publicly available through the URL. There is also functionality for browsing by keyword, which is in beta.
One of the most popular uses of the Wayback Machine is to get pages and sites that were a part of defunct domains like Angelfire or Geocities. These sites, which were foundational for many users coming of age in the internet era or discovering the internet, were closed down by their hosts, so the only way to see the pages now is to use the Wayback Machine.