Wayback Machine Losing Website Content After 301 Redirect

I love the Wayback Machine but it has some bizarre and crippling flaws which make it incapable of preserving the web’s content. In fact, the last 5 or 6 times I went to recover old content via the Wayback Machine, the Internet Archive had lost all of the content that it had already saved at one point.

This can happen 2 ways. I already wrote about one of them: Wayback Machine Error: Page cannot be displayed due to robots.txt. The other way is when a website is 301 Redirected.

How this happens

Wayback Machine may save a site’s content for years, even after a site goes offline or is shut down. But, then, if the site is later redirected to a new site, Wayback somehow magically “loses” all of the old content. I wonder if the content is still there on their servers but just inaccessible from the web interface. Hmm…

Screenshot of a wayback page that wasn’t indexed. This isn’t a great example, but even it WAS indexed, Wayback would (incorrectly) say “This page is available on the Web!”

This is an example of some old, deleted Examiner.com content. So in this case, I went ahead and clicked on “Save this URL in the Wayback Machine” even though the URL was NOT on the web. I just wanted to see what would happen. And what happened is exactly what happens any time a site is 301 redirected.

Wayback changed the URL to AXS.com.

So the old, original article is now lost, which was about “Occupy Orlando” and now just point to the AXS.com home page:

This is bizarre.

I looked and was unable to find anyone at the Internet Archive to reach out to. I’d like to make them aware of this problem. It must be a mistake! Isn’t the entire point of the Internet Archive to … you know … archive the Internet?

Did you lose content from the Wayback Machine?

It happens over and over with everything from small sites to larger publishers which go away. In 2016 Examiner.com shut down and in more recent history, the Internet lost LAist.com, SFist.com and DCist.com. Hundreds of thousands of pages which the Internet Archive DID have saved are coming up missing all the time due to this “flaw”.

I can’t imagine it was designed to work this way.

If you lost your content or know a solution to this problem please comment below. I have hundreds of people who will thank you for it who reached out to me when Examiner.com closed.

Len

President at Telapost
I create content and do SEO for law firms, small businesses and companies worldwide. I have been generating traffic online since 1992. I have owned multiple successful companies. I'm an organic eater, nature lover and German Shepherd owner. Feel free to contact me here.
1 Comment
  1. I realize this is an oldish post, but I stumbled across it and find it confusing. You’re saying you tried to save a page in the Wayback Machine that was already gone, and you didn’t understand why it saved the redirect instead of the already deleted article? If so, uh… you can’t really archive something that doesn’t exist anymore…

    Unless your actual point was that the Wayback Machine used to have the article saved but the archived version was gone when you looked for it later. That would be a genuine anomaly. Which unfortunately seems to happen, albeit uncommonly.

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