2 Free Digital Tools To Help You Pull Back The Internet's Curtain
Learn how a site is built, and find out what it used to look like
Happy every-other-Tuesday. Get excited: time for 2 Free Digital Tools!
Today’s tools will help you better understand your competitors… or anyone else on the internet.
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Now on to today’s tools.
Tool type: Website and Browser Plugin
Built With literally tells you what tools any website was “built with.”
Want to know if your competitor’s site is built in Squarespace, Wordpress or something else? Or if a potential customer is currently using a specific plugin? Built With will tell you all that… and a whole lot more!
Honestly, it’s almost too much information for basic internet sleuthing. The average site can have dozens of tools built right into it.
But if you want to know how a site is built, what it’s using for data collection, where it’s hosted and a whole lot more, you can find that information in a matter of moments, for free, at BuiltWith.com.
You can also do interesting things like search keywords across the internet and find tech trends. With these, you can only see top numbers for free. But if you want a list of every website using a certain piece of tech or ranking for a particular keyword, Built With can help with that as well for a fee.
They also have a plugin that lets you peep any site you’re visiting without ever navigating away.
FREE or FREEmium: FREEmium
You can get a ton of value without paying. But they do have some pretty cool upsells, if you’re looking to take things further. You can learn more about their paid plans here.
Tool type: Website and Browser Plugin
Way back in the ‘90s, some smart folks realized the internet was constantly evolving and that it would be helpful to create a literal archive of… well… everything! Not just a listing of what every site looks like today (that’s what Google does), but rather how they’ve evolved over time.
Thus the Internet Archive was born, with its primary tool the Wayback Machine.
Their site is simple — it looks like it was built in the ‘90s. But it is powerful.
Type any URL into their search bar and then choose how far back in time you want to travel.
Every black line is a list of archives from that time period. So the taller and thicker the lines, the more archives they nabbed of a particular site.
Pick a date, and voila: you can see what a site used to look like.
Here’s Slate.com circa June 2009 for reference.
Want to see what Facebook or Twitter looked like when they first launched? You can. But this is way more powerful than simply tracking how web design has changed.
As someone who works in politics, I’ve used this site to see how candidates — and their stated policies! — have changed.
You can also use this for any business you’re trying to learn more about.
Looking for info no longer listed on their site? Check the archive!
Did they delete a page from their site? Check the archive!
Trying to find past team members or old contact info? Check the archive!
If it’s been on their site, there is a good chance the Wayback Machine nabbed a recording of it.
They also have a browser extension that will let you search the archive without navigating away from the page.
One more “fun” use case: you can SOMETIMES use it to find deleted tweets. Let’s say you bookmark a tweet (meaning you know the specific URL - without that, this WILL NOT work). You go back to the tweet, only to find it’s been deleted by the author. If you don’t have a screenshot, you’re out of luck. Or rather, you were! Drop that link into the Wayback Machine and there is a decent shot it’s been backed up, just waiting for you to come looking.
So get to digging!
Find anything fun, surprising, disturbing or just kinda interesting, hit reply and let me know about it. I freaking love this stuff!!
FREE or FREEmium: FREE!
This is a totally free tool run by the non-profit Internet Archive. You can support them with tax-deductible donations if you’re so inclined.
Hope this issue of Free Digital Tools was helpful.
I’ll be back in your inbox in two weeks with two more free tools for you to check out.
If you haven’t already, connect with me on social. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok.
Have any questions or free digital tools you think I should check out? Hit reply and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
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