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How To Find When a Website Was First Published or Launched

Posted by Arch on July 2, 2019
How to find when a website was first published or launched

We’ve all likely had our fair share of issues finding the publication or launch date of a website. Some need to do it for a school essay, others to prepare a work presentation, while some want to find how fresh or up-to-date the content they are reading actually is.

Fortunately, there are lots of different methods which we’ll cover, so stay with us.

Look Up the Website (and the URL)

The simplest and most accurate way is taking a good look at the website, as it often happens that an online article has a date when it was first published and/or last updated. These sections are usually located either at the beginning or at the end of an article.

Alternatively, you can look for a copyright date, which appears at the very bottom of the website. Note, however, that not all websites have this and that the copyright date only shows the year of the whole website’s creation and the year of its last update.

Copyright Date

Before taking a look at other, more complex methods, keep in mind that the URL might also contain the answer. Some sites like keeping their articles tidy by putting their publish date in the URL.

Use Google to Find the Date

Google mostly shows the publication date next to each search result in most cases. However, if this is not the case for you, here’s what you can do to find the publication date of a specific webpage:

  1. Go to Google.
  2. Type inurl: in the search box.
  3. Copy and paste the page’s URL right next to inurl:.
  4. Click the “Google Search” (or just “Search”) button.
  5. Add &as_qdr=y15 next to the URL
  6. Search again. A date should now appear beneath the page URL.

Check the Source Code

The source code helps with lots of different website aspects, even including the way it was made, as most of this info is not available otherwise. Here’s how to open it and find the publication date on Firefox, Chrome, and likely most other web browsers:

  1. Find the “View page source” option. If you’re using Firefox or Chrome, right-click on an empty surface on the website you’re visiting and then select the “View page source” option at the end of the list. The default shortcut for this option is Ctrl + U on Windows, and Command + U on Mac.
    View Page Source
  2. The website’s source code will appear in a new tab on your web browser, which will likely pop up next to the tab that contains your website. The next thing you need to do is press Ctrl + F (Command + F on Mac) to open the Find function on your web browser.
  3. The Find function, which takes up just a small portion of your screen, is used to find a specific piece of information we need. To find the publish date, it is best to just type “publish” in the search box.
    Ctrl+F
  4. The terms you’re looking for are datePublished, publishdate, published_time, etc. Searching for “publish” might help should you happen to find neither of the aforementioned terms. You can also search for “dateModified” to find out when the website was last modified. The year should be listed first, followed by month, and then date.

Carbon Dating the Web

There’s a free online service called Carbon Dating the Web specifically made to find the approximate date of a website launch. It’s free and easy to use but takes quite a bit of time to estimate the date. This tool had a success rate of 75% when its developers tested it on pages with a known creation date.

Carbon Dating The Web

People who cite websites a lot may also benefit from the option to install the program locally. It can be downloaded from this link.

Wayback Machine

The Wayback Machine is a tool that keeps track of existing sites over time and stores that information into its database. It was released in 2001 but has been around since 1996. It gives you the opportunity to explore more than 366 billion websites.

All you need to do is type or copy the website address into the search box and click the “Browse history” button. If the search succeeds, you’ll get to see how many times the Wayback Machine saved the site info and when. You can also click on the Summary and Site Map buttons for even more information.

Wayback Machine

If you want to browse another website’s history from the results page, you probably won’t have the same “Browse history” button. If so, you can still press Enter after pasting (or typing) another link.

One More Option to Try

Before losing all hope, try checking the comments. The webpage’s comments may help you get the approximate date or at least see that a particular website existed in the period when the comment was made.

Finally, if you can’t even get an approximate page to publish or update date, consider using the “(n.d.)” notation. This is usually fine as long as you tried to find the date beforehand. Otherwise, if you need to have some sort of date, you can use the date when you accessed the webpage last time, as recommended by the Modern Language Association of America (MLA).

Wrapping Up

The bottom line is that the only method with a hundred percent success rate is finding the publish and/or page update dates. The other methods aren’t nearly as precise, but can provide some useful information should the site itself lack any dates. If all fails, just use the no date notation or mention the date of your last visit.

Did you manage to find a website’s publish date you were looking for? If so, which method did you find the most effective? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.

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