Can You Remove Things From The Wayback Machine?

Last Updated on June 5, 2024

remove content from wayback machineOdds are, you have posted something online that you later regretted. Whether it’s a blog, social media post, or entire web site, you (seemingly) deleted it from the internet. Except, later, you discover that people can still find it thanks to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. So, can you remove things from the Wayback Machine?

In this blog post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know, including how to remove websites from the Wayback Machine.

What Is The Wayback Machine?

Have you ever wished you could have a time travel device and go back to different points in history? Well, with the Wayback Machine, you can do exactly that! (Well, digitally at least, and only as far back in time as 1996).

The Internet Archive is a nonprofit organization that, to date, has preserved 28 years of internet history. Their site is a vast web archive that takes snapshots of websites at different points in time and saves them.

That way, anyone who is curious about a page’s history, or deleted pages, can go back and view them as they were. In 2018, an appeals court even upheld that pages from the Wayback Machine are legitimate legal evidence.

Basically, things online don’t go away even after you delete them. This affects both your life and reputation.

how to use the wayback machine

To use the Wayback Machine, type a website into the search bar. From there, you can select the year you want to view, and then the specific date. Click on a highlighted date to view snapshots of the website from that day and time.

Does The Wayback Machine Archive Everything?

No, the Wayback Machine does not archive every single page on the internet. They can only view sites available to the public. They can not view pages that:

  • require a password
  • are only accessible by submitting a form
  • Are on secured servers

Sometimes, websites appear on the site with broken pages, missing graphics, or don’t appear at all. Here are the most common reasons for this:

  • Robots.txt: The robot.txt document on the site prevented the web crawl.
  • Javascript: If Javascript elements generate links without the full name in the page, they can be difficult to archive.
  • Server side image maps: The crawler cannot archive a site if it needs to contact the originating server.
  • Orphan pages: The crawler can not find a site that nothing else links to. Crawlers do not use search engines to find websites.

Essentially, the Wayback Machine can easily archive pages that are both publicly available and have simple html. Anything beyond that might save on the site.

Can The Wayback Machine Show Deleted Websites?

Yes, sites exist even after the original page changes or is removed. The archive also shows previous versions of sites that still exist today.

One of the main goals of the Wayback Machine is to create a record of the internet. That way, people can see what a site used to look like. For example, you can see what our website looked like all the way back in 2011:

can the wayback machine show deleted websites

Thankfully, our site has changed a lot since then.

According to Alexis Rossi, Director of Collections at the Internet Archive,

“Web pages are ephemeral… Today, the average lifespan of a web page is about 100 days before it either changes or is deleted.”

The Internet Archive offers users a way to see changes to a website over time, as well as see sites that no longer exist.

How Far Back Does The Wayback Machine Go?

The Internet Archive began saving pages 28 years ago, so the record goes all the way back to 1996. This site is one of the only places where you can find archived web pages from the early days of the internet.

Currently, their archive contains:

  • 835 billion web pages
  • 44 million books and texts
  • 15 million audio recordings
  • 10.6 million videos
  • 4.8 million images
  • 1 million software programs

Basically, if you have ever posted anything online, the Wayback Machine could have it available for people to view. This is true even after you deleted it from everywhere else.

wayback machine archive

You can view the entire archive collection on the website.

How To Remove Things From The Wayback Machine

So, how exactly do you remove pages from the Wayback Machine? Try these options:

Submit a request to the Internet Archive

You must submit a request directly to the archive team to remove the archived versions of your website or account.

To do this, send an email to their email address: Include the following in your message:

  • URL(s) of the web pages you want them to remove
  • the time period you want your pages removed
  • time period that you had control of the site or account
  • any other information that you think would be helpful for them to know

Note: whether or not they remove the site from the Wayback Machine is up to their discretion.

What to do if they deny your request

If the Internet Archive denied your removal request email, you still have options. Depending on where you live, you have legal protections about internet content. Try these options:

  • If you live in the United States, you can submit a DMCA Takedown Notice to protect your intellectual property.
  • If you live in the UK or EU, you have the “right to erasure” with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You may be able to file a claim under these protections.

Note: These options may require legal counsel.

Take preventative measures

If you own a website, you can actually prevent the Internet Archive from archiving your website in the first place. This won’t take down previous archived pages, but it will prevent this from happening in the future.

Remember earlier when we said the Wayback Machine can’t archive everything – including certain robot.txt files? As a site owner, you can edit the Robot.txt file to prevent their crawlers from accessing your site.

To do this, just open your Robot.txt file and add these two lines:

User-agent: ia_archiver

Disallow: /

Note: do not delete anything from your file, as this could leave your website vulnerable to automated traffic.

Closing Out: Getting Pages Removed From The Wayback Machine

Pages truly can stay on the internet forever. However, by taking these steps, you can remove things from the Wayback Machine so that they never see the light of day again.

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About The Author

William DiAntonio is the Founder & CEO of Reputation911, a reputation management firm he founded in 2010 that has earned the trust of its clients for over a decade by helping individuals, businesses and brands control their online search results.

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