Inside Wayback Machine, the internet’s time capsule

The Internet Archive is backing up vast swaths of the web — and grappling with ethical, political, and legal questions along the way.

At 300 Funston Street in San Francisco’s Richmond District, there’s an old Christian Science church. Walk up it’s palatial steps, past Corinthian columns and urns, into the bowels of a vaulted sanctuary — and you’ll find a copy of the internet.

In a backroom where pastors once congregated stand rows of computer servers, flickering en masse with blue light, humming the hymnal of technological grace.

This is the home of the Internet Archive, a non-profit that has, for 22 years, been preserving our online history: Billions of web pages, tweets, news articles, videos, and memes.

It is not a task for the weary. The internet is an enormous, ethereal place in a constant state of rot. It houses 1.8B web pages (644m of which are active), and doubles in sizeevery 2-5 years — yet the average web page lasts just 100 days, and most articles are forgotten 5 minutes after publication.

Without backup, these items are lost to time. But archiving it all comes with sizeable responsibilities: What do you choose to preserve? How do you preserve it? And ultimately, why does it all matter? …

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