For its 25th anniversary, The Internet Archive has created a Wayforward Machine. This satirical spin-off of the Wayback Machine says it shows what websites will look like in 25 years, if users do not sufficiently protect the free internet.
As with the Wayback Machine, the Wayforward Machine allows users to enter a website of their choice. The Wayback Machine allows users to see what a site looked like years ago, but the Wayforward Machine supposedly shows what sites will look like in a quarter of a century.
When a web page is loaded with this machine, the image is immediately filled with pop-ups. The pop-ups then show in the sketched future image how entire websites can be taken off the air if there is a suspicion of copyright infringement. Also, in this version of 2046, websites can refuse users if they have not turned off all privacy settings, and have firewalls turned off.
The Internet Archive further expands the dystopian vision of the future by means of a timeline. For example, end-to-end encryption will be banned worldwide by 2023 to better detect criminals. Independent media are also on the brink of extinction, as the company News Incorporated controls almost all news media.
According to the timeline, censorship plays a major role in Europe, ensuring that sites with content that are seen as thought crime are blocked. According to The Internet Archive, this will result in companies relocating en masse to free America in 2029, although the US also applies strict internet conditions two years later.
Furthermore, The Internet Archive’s timeline states that in the future it will be possible to get copyrighted facts, which means the end for Wikipedia, that all news will be behind a paywall and that several Eastern European and Asian countries like China come up with a Great Firewall.
According to The Internet Archive, the pop-ups and grim timeline aren’t even that far-fetched. With a series of examples of real news stories and passed laws that provide a foretaste of an internet full of censorship and privacy violations, the company argues that a free internet in the future may just be a fairy tale. The company created the Wayforward Machine to raise awareness about these issues and hopes it will inspire visitors to take action to preserve a free internet.