“Wayforward Machine” offers a glimpse into the future of the web

What could the future of the Internet look like? With the digital world of the 21st century turning into a pit of spam, tracking, paywalls, insecure content, and legal threats, “Wayforward Machine” has a dystopian image in mind. Behind the name of clickbaity, the Wayforward Machine is an attempt by the Internet Archive to preview the chaos that the World Wide Web is about to become.

Internet Archive suspects what the Internet of 2046 is like

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, a non-profit organization, is still very popular with netizens, journalists, and archivists interested in seeing what a web page looked like in the past, even when the entire page or web sites are removed. subsequently. Users can simply navigate to web.archive.org to save a web page or find the copy of a web page as it appeared on an earlier date. As such, the 617 billion page Wayback Machine has become an indispensable digital asset since its inception in 1996.

While the Wayback Machine lets you go back in time, this week’s Internet Archive has created a “Wayforward Machine” that does the opposite. Those who visit the Wayback Machine are now greeted with the following banner claiming to take them 25 years into the future.

“On the 25th anniversary of the Internet Archive, we look forward to the year 2046. Will we have access to reliable information online? Will the knowledge be free and open?” declares the nonprofit organization.

Wayback Machine.
Enlarge / Wayback Machine.

At wayforward.archive.org, users can enter a web page and press “Forward.”

Wayforward Machine.
Enlarge / Wayforward Machine.

First look: “Wayforward Machine” in action

In our tests, Ars expected to type in the URL of a web page and see a modified version, what it might look like 25 years later. However, to our disappointment, our tests revealed that entering virtually any web page displays the same series of pop-ups that mask and blur the existing content of the web page as it appears today:

Wayforward Machine results for arstechnica.com.
Enlarge / Wayforward Machine results for arstechnica.com.

Ars saw a variety of messages appear on the Wayforward Machine after entering a URL:

“The content on the site you are trying to access is protected by Content Truth Gateway. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of free content,” followed by a fictitious credit card payment form. Another message read: “The owner of the content has made this content unavailable in their political bloc. The copyright of this material has been extended for 200 more years,” among others.

And then it becomes clear: the whole purpose of the satirical Wayforward Machine is to raise awareness of the ongoing threats to the internet and libraries like the Wayback Machine, which plays a prominent role in preserving historical content and truth, as it appeared in the past.

Last year, four of the nation’s largest book publishers sued the Internet Archive over the Wayback Machine storing scanned copies of copyrighted books and making them available to the public on a site called the Open Library.

“The Internet Archive is facing a lawsuit by a corporate publisher cartel that threatens the ancient right of libraries to buy, preserve and lend materials to the public. To fight for a world in which libraries and students are empowered through access to information, join our #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, “says the Landing page ‘IA2046’.

The initiative has been joined by privacy advocates and digital rights groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Mozilla, Fight for the Future, and the Wikimedia Foundation, among other major players.

For those who prefer to see the Wayforward Machine in action, here is a video:

Wayforward Machine preview.


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