Brave browser taps the Wayback Machine to show deleted web pages

The internet may be a gold mine of information, but it’s all too easy for companies and governments around the world to remove web pages and whitewash history. While it’s difficult to pin down the average lifespan of a web page, some estimates put the figure at anywhere between 44 and 100 days. That is partly why Brave, the privacy-focused browser recently launched by Mozilla cofounder and JavaScript creator Brendan Eich, is now making it easier for users to access web pages that are no longer online.

Brave’s desktop app now comes with the Internet Archive built in — marking the first time the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine has been supported natively inside a desktop browser.

The Internet Archive has been charting the web’s evolution since 1996, letting anyone take a peek at the Facebook login page from 2005 or VentureBeat in 2006 simply by plugging a URL into the Wayback Machine. The Internet Archive crawls the web, taking snapshots at intermittent periods, to furnish a public record of how the internet is changing. But it’s also a useful tool for documenting things said by public figures — such as Donald Trump.

“The web is fragile — just as nations rise and fall, so do the websites of your favorite news orgs, brands, companies, governments, etc,” noted Wayback Machine director Mark Graham in a blog post. “Web pages are edited and pages are taken down.”

Brave has now integrated a 404 detection system into its browser so any request for a web page that no longer exists is linked directly to the Wayback Machine’s lookup engine.

Users will see a message across the top of the browser that says: “Sorry, that page is missing. Do you want to check if a saved version is available in the Wayback Machine,” and be prompted to click on a “check for saved version” button.

Above: 404 error returned on a website, with Brave linking directly to a version on the Wayback Machine

“For the past 23 years, the Wayback Machine has archived more than 900 billion URLs and more than 400 billion web pages, and [it] adds many hundred million more archived URLs each day,” Graham said. “As such, there is a good chance archived versions of ‘missing’ pages you are looking for are available.”

It’s worth noting that the Wayback Machine is already available for Google Chrome and Firefox via extensions, but installation creates just enough friction to keep the average user from even knowing about it. Activating web page archives by default is an important development and ensures internet users can still view the content they’re looking for, even if it has been deleted from the original source.

In addition to the common 404 (page not found) error code, the Wayback Machine will also circumvent more than a dozen other error codes, including 408 (request timed out) and 502 (bad gateway error).

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