‘Wayforward Machine’ Gives a Glimpse of the Future of the Web

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

Internet Archive suspects what the Internet of 2046 looks like

The nonprofit Internet Archive Wayback Machine remains very popular among internet users, journalists, and archivists interested in seeing what a web page looked like in the past, even when the entire page or websites are subsequently deleted. Users can simply navigate to web.archive.org to save a web page or access a 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 Wayback Machine allows you to to go back in time, This week’s Internet Archive proposed a “Wayforward Machine” doing the opposite. Those who visit the Wayback Machine are now greeted with the following banner claiming to take you 25 years into the future.

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

Return machine.
Enlarge / Return machine.

On wayforward.archive.org, users can grab a web page and click “Go Forward”.

Machine to follow.
Enlarge / Machine to follow.

First Look: “Wayforward Machine” in action

In our testing, Ars expected to type in the URL of a webpage and see an edited version, which it might look like 25 years later. Much to our disappointment, however, our tests revealed that typing virtually any webpage shows the same series of pop-up messages masking and scrambling the existing webpage content as it appears today:

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

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

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

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

Last year, four of the country’s leading book publishers sued the Internet Archive for Wayback Machine, storing digitized 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 from a corporate publisher cartel that threatens the centuries-old right of libraries to buy, hold and lend materials to the public. join our #EmpoweringLibraries campaign, ”reads the“ IA2046 ”landing page.

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

For those who prefer to watch Wayforward Machine in action, here’s a video:

Wayforward Machine teaser.


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