A fascinating interview with Brewster Kahle in the New Scientist. From the introduction: “Imagine if your very first Web pages or some furious, ill-written late-night postings came back to haunt you years later. Well, now they can. The Wayback Machine gives you access to the Internet Archive, which has taken an almost-complete snapshot of the World Wide Web every 60 days since 1996 — that’s about 2 billion pages. This archive is now a vast record, storing pages others have censored, deleted or simply forgotten to maintain.” The person behind it is Brewster Kahle, who had also founded Alexa. He talks of his motivation:
Websites are like shifting sands. The average life of a Web page is 100 days. After that either it’s changed or it disappears. So our intellectual society is built on sand. You can’t hold people accountable if, say, the promises posted on the Web by politicians are not available after the election. And key academic papers can become unavailable if a researcher leaves a university and their website is deleted. We’ve found that many websites of publicly funded projects disappear within a year. So as taxpayers we are investing in research projects, but we’re not investing in a Web library that organises them and gives future generations access. Our Wayback Machine is the first attempt to do this.
Also see: an O’Reilly article (Jan 2002) on how the Wayback Machine works.