The Wayback Machine is a helpful tool that can be used to see how a domain name was previously developed. It was launched in 2001 by the Internet Archive, a nonprofit library based in San Francisco, California. Its founders, Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat, developed the Wayback Machine for the purpose of providing “universal access to all knowledge” by preserving archived copies of websites. The archived database is over 23 petabytes large and has over 445 billion webpages, although the organization has never published an inventory of the websites they’ve archived or the algorithms they use to determine what to capture and when. They began archiving web pages in May 1996, with the goal of making the service public five years later. Today, the Wayback Machine has been online for over two decades and been used by millions of different people for a variety of reasons. The tool is ideal for webmasters and domain investors wanting to research what was previously on a domain name before registering or backordering it.
The Wayback Machine is a digital archive of the World Wide Web. It allows users to go “back in time” and see what a website looked like in the past by crawling it and saving local copies of the website on a regular basis. The organization uses their own crawlers and third party sources to archive website text, audio and even images. It can be useful for several different reasons, including domain research to see how a domain name was previously developed or determine its age, a last resort to retrieving information if your domain name or web hosting expired and you need to get the content back to start re-building again, or to save a webpage on demand. Although many other metrics are used to determine the strength or quality of a domain, the Wayback Machine has only one purpose: to archive as much data from a webpage as possible!
How Is Data Gathered
Wayback Machine created their own algorithm and crawlers which scan the web and download all publicly available information and data files on webpages. Although domain investors and web developers mainly use the web portion to look at domain data, the organization actually archives all different kinds of data, from webpages to books and even software. Crawls are contributed from a variety of sources, some imported from third parties and others generated internally by the Archive. For example, some crawls are contributed by companies like Alexa. The frequency of snapshot captures will vary per website. Websites that receive steady traffic and are updated frequently are more likely to be crawled and archived more often.
Domainers utilize the Wayback Machine to see how many times a domain has been crawled and archived. With that information, they can get a better idea on how the domain was previously used. There are three common things domainers will always lookout for when using the Wayback Machine. The first is to make sure the domain wasn’t previously used for spammy purposes. Investors will look the domain up to make sure it didn’t have content (such as Adult or Pharmacy) which may have affected it in a negative way. If the domain was previously used for spam purposes then cleaning it up (at least, in the eyes of Google and other networks) could take some additional time and work. Secondly, domain investors will use the Wayback Machine to see if an expired domain has already been previously parked or listed with a “for sale” landing page. If a domain has been registered for years with a “for sale” landing page on it and still hasn’t sold, that’s a bad sign for new potential investors who might be interested in grabbing it. Along with that, if a domain has been parked for several years and the owner is now letting it expire, then it’s likely not generating much parking revenue anymore. Finally, domain investors will use the Wayback Machine to see if a domain was previously developed professionally for a business. If so, they might be able to grab the domain and sell it back to the previous owner. Several things can happen which may result in a business forgetting to renew their domain, such as the person who registered the domain leaving the company and forgetting to change the WhoIs email and other information over to someone else. If that happens, they might be waiting for the domain to become available again and if you grab it before them, you could turn a quick profit.
It’s common for domain investors to use Wayback Machine data as a filter for any type of expired domain. By seeing the number of times a domain was crawled and archived, they can determine if it’s worth looking further into or not. If the domain has been parked or listed for sale over several years, it might not be worth investing in unless you plan to develop it yourself. If a domain was used for spam purposes then you can easily skip it, or at least plan on putting in some extra time cleaning it up. Finally, if a domain is dropping and was previously developed for a business, you can do some additional research (checking if the company is still active..etc) and potentially register it with hopes of selling it back to the previous owner for some profit. Archived information in the Wayback Machine is extremely helpful for domain investors and those are just three big reasons why!
Wayback Machine archives can be seen by looking up your desired URL at web.archive.org. To quickly view archived data for your website simply access a URL like this: https://web.archive.org/web/*/expireddomains.com
Archive.org does have an API. However, it cannot be used to gather the kind of data most domain investors or website developers would be seeking. The Wayback Machine API is completely free for anyone to use, but its main purpose is to help developers add media as well as consume and repurpose metadata and media.
With such large amounts of data being stored within the Wayback Machine, some might think reliability would suffer. However, this isn’t the case. As technology has developed over the years, the storage capacity of the Wayback Machine has also grown. After only two years of public access, this tool was growing at a rate of 12 terabytes per month. As of December 2020, it contained over 70 petabytes of data. Throughout all of this growth, the Wayback Machine has remained one of the most reliable tools for researching archived domain data. By using their own crawlers along with trusted sources, it’s virtually impossible to manipulate data stored and displayed within the Wayback Machine. Historic website screenshots and content can’t be faked, so if a domain has archived screenshots and content they are most likely legitimate and real.
Unlike most other domain tools found online, the Wayback Machine is completely free for anyone to use. However, the organization does accept donations and relies on them to keep their services free.