Some websites proudly proclaim their history on their homepage, with statements like "online since September 1995." For most websites, though, you'll need to do some digging to unearth the site's creation date. Websites can also change ownership, so that a single domain name can have a number of different start-up dates. There are several tools you can use to explore a website's history and research how long it has been online. The tools provide reasonably firm evidence of how long a site has been live but none of them are foolproof.
Check the Website
The website itself may have information about its own history, even if the dates are not immediately obvious. Many corporate sites, for example, have a section on "Company History" that may include the date the website went live. The information may also be secluded in the "About Us" section, or on a similarly-titled Web page. Be cautious in accepting the date, though, because several factors, such as a change in company name or ownership, can cause a disconnect between the date shown and the actual date a website was first created.
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Even in the absence of a detailed history, the site's copyright notice sometimes provides a clue; a statement such as "Copyright 2002-2014," while not definitive, strongly suggests that the site was created in 2002.
Check the Whois Record
Websites have a publicly available Whois record that includes details on site ownership and creation, including the creation date. You can retrieve a site's record using online Whois lookup tools. For example, the Whois record for facebook.com lists the creation date as March 29, 1997 while the record for twitter.com gives a more recent creation date of January 21, 2000. These dates are the date the domain name was registered, which may be different from the date the site went live on the Internet.
The Whois record only provides the creation date for the most recent owner of the domain name. For example, a site that was created in 2001 and expired in 2009, then resurrected in 2011 under new ownership, would show a Whois creation date of 2011. A few Whois sites, like DomainTools, offer a "Whois History" lookup service for a fee by which you can view all creation dates for a domain name.
Use the Wayback Machine
The Internet Archive, affectionately known as the Wayback Machine, stores images of old websites dating back to 1996. Enter the URL of the website you're researching to produce a timeline of the Archive's records for the site. The earliest records are likely to be the original version of the site though it's possible that earlier versions exist that were not archived. The Wayback Machine has archives of billions of websites, but it is not comprehensive, so not all site histories are available.
Try a Domain Age Checker
Some online services market themselves as "domain age checker" tools where you enter a website URL to get information on how long a site has been active. Some of these facilitate access to the information in Whois records, while others extract age data from the Wayback Machine. Some sites are silent on how they generate age information. In all cases, it's helpful to rely on more than one source of information in determining a website's age.
Search for the URL
Put the website's address in quotes--"www.example.com"--to find mentions of the site on other Web pages. If you search on Google, use the "site" command to exclude results from the site you're searching. For instance, the following search will return results from all sites except example.com: "www.example.com" -site:www.example.com.
Your search results will include mentions of example.com at other sites. Some of the results will have dates you can scan for the earliest date on which your website is mentioned. You can also search databases like LexisNexis and Proquest (many libraries have these available) and arrange your search results by date to find the earliest mention of a website, which provides assurance that the website was not created any later than the date of the article that references it. A well-known website might also have a Wikipedia or other encyclopedia-style entry covering the history of the site that may include the date the site first appeared on the Web.