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The Internet Archive's 'Wayforward Machine' paints a grim future for the web

Published by Engadget on Thu, 07 Oct 2021


The Internet Archive is marking its 25th anniversary by peering into the future to predict what the web might look like a quarter of a century from now. The non-profit took the opportunity to rail against internet regulation by offering a grim vision of what lies ahead.Punch a URL into the Wayforward Machine and you'll see a version of that page covered in pop-ups. The messages include one reading "Classified content. The website you are trying to access features information that the owner(s) have opted to restrict to users that have not shared their personal information." Another reads "This site contains information that is currently classified as Thought Crime in your region."The way things are going, the Internet Archive suggests, free and open access to knowledge on the web may become far more limited. A Wayforward subsite includes a timeline of things that might go awry in the coming years, starting with the repeal of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites and internet platforms from being liable for things that users post. A repeal could have enormous consequences for the web, though some, such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have proposed that the provision should be reformed.The timeline includes some other wild-but-not-inconceivable suggestions, such as a law allowing corporations to copyright facts, forcing Wikipedia to move to the Dark Web, and more countries introducing their own versions of China's Great Firewall. The Internet Archive teamed up with several digital rights organizations for this project, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future and the Wikimedia Foundation. The subsite includes resources on how to help protect freely available information.The Wayforward Machine is, of course, a satirical version of the Wayback Machine, which has archived hundreds of billions of web pages over the last two and a half decades. It's an important resource for helping preserve the history of the internet, including things like Flash games and animations, so it's probably worth paying attention to the Internet Archive's vision of the future.
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