PC Doctor July 11, 2014

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Dear PC Doctor:

I had a website when I was in high school.  I posted a lot of silly stuff and some things that I am not proud of.  When I graduated from college and started looking for a job, I took my website down.  Is it true that it’s still out there, somewhere, and that prospective employers can see it?

      Thanks, Jim

Dear Jim:

Great question!  We all say and do things we’d rather not have our employers see.  With the internet, all it takes is a Google search for your name, and all kinds of interesting things may appear.

However, if you have deleted your site, a Google search for your name will not bring up the website.  For most practical purposes, it is gone and cannot be stumbled upon.

That said, there is something called the Internet Archive (or Wayback Machine).  It is a non-profit organization founded in 1996 with the goal of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public, to historical collections that exist in digital format.  It archives websites.  The basic idea was that, if researchers were going to use internet documents in their work and writings, they'd need to be able to include the citations in their footnotes or bibliographies.  Because websites always change, there needed to be a way to capture 'snapshots' of the web that could be referred to later.

Not every website is included in the Internet Archive. If a site is password protected or if the site's owner specifically requested that it not be included, it won't be visible.  Also, sometimes links and photos do not show.

What does this mean for you?  Currently, there is no full-text search feature for the Wayback Machine.  That means your site cannot be found by typing in your name (unless your website title was your name).  If, however, someone has the URL for your old website, they will be able to look at it even though you have deleted it.

If you would like to know more about the Internet Archive and Wayback Machine, please visit https://archive.org/.

Until next time…Happy Computing!

      PC Doctor