To highlight these issues, the Internet Archive recently launched the Wayforward Machine, a satirical take on the Wayback Machine that promises to let users “visit the future of the internet”.
Plugging a URL into the Wayforward Machine generates a page plastered with an endless stream of pop-ups, some of which demand payment or personal information, while others simply note that access to information is denied. The message is hardly subtle.
The Internet Archive’s sanctimonious qualities are both admirable and maddening, and this dystopian vision hits both notes.
I wonder about the impact of our platform-centric world on the Archive’s mission. For example, individual Instagram posts and profiles are archived more sporadically than their website counterparts, even for famous and well-followed accounts. A snapshot of NASA’s website is created multiple times every day, but the Archive will let its Instagram profile go for several days in a row without making a copy, even though NASA is posting new photos. Is that a limitation imposed by Meta or Instagram? NASA’s Twitter page is also archived daily. Is it a disk space concern — photos and video, compared to text? Should the Internet Archive’s mission be less ambitious, perhaps, if it is to survive?