Tech

See the future of the internet inside the Wayforward Machine

From the creators of the Wayback Machine comes the Wayforward Machine, a portal that can show you websites from 2046. Go take a look at it, spoilers below.

If you’ve never used the Wayback Machine, you’re missing out. It’s one of the coolest places on the internet. A virtual library of half a billion webpages from 1996-present, it’s a great way to research and reference and it’s outrageously fun — check out TechSpot from 2004!

In contrast, the Wayforward Machine is a dreary window into a dystopian future. In much the same way the Wayback Machine celebrates the history of the internet, the Wayforward Machine is a warning about the directions the internet could head down.

Enter any URL into the Wayforward Machine and it’ll flood your screen with a nauseating overlay of popups that prevent you from getting to the page. They’ll warn you that the Ministry of Truth doesn’t approve of the website’s content, that the webpage doesn’t let people of your political affiliation access its content, and ask you for your retina and fingerprints and make you disable your privacy settings.

The Wayforward Machine was created for the Internet Archive’s 25th anniversary. Besides maintaining the Wayback Machine, the IA manages the Open Library, collects recordings of news programs and notable media, and advocates for digital rights; all for free.

But their efforts are in jeopardy; hence the Wayforward Machine, and an accompanying site that links to current and “future” articles about the internet’s degradation. One of the issues they’re fighting in court at the moment is their right to loan digital books on the internet.

But some of the wider issues they raise awareness for — like the firewalls in China, Iran, and Russia that prevent them from sharing resources freely, and the digital blackouts that have been imposed in Egypt, Tunisia, and Guinea, are so monumental that there’s no apparent path to a solution.

The question ultimately asked by the Wayforward Machine is about the future of the Wayback Machine. As the internet is chopped up by firewalls, paywalls, and copyright laws, the Wayback Machine loses its ability to catalog. If protections like Section 230 are revoked, the site will be unable to lawfully host most of its content.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.


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