June 23, 2024

Mikayla Macfarlane

Serving technology better

Google Search retires one of its oldest features – here’s why we’ll miss cached links

3 min read
Google Search retires one of its oldest features - here's why we'll miss cached links

Phone open to Google Search page

NurPhoto/Contributor/Getty Images

Those of you who ever viewed a cached version of a webpage during a Google search will have to wave goodbye to the feature. In an exchange on X, aka Twitter, Google search liaison Danny Sullivan acknowledged that the option has been retired, expressing sadness to see it go as it was one of the search giant’s oldest features.

“Yes, it’s been removed,” Sullivan said in his post. “I know, it’s sad. I’m sad too. It’s one of our oldest features. But it was meant for helping people access pages when way back, you often couldn’t depend on a page loading. These days, things have greatly improved. So, it was decided to retire it.”

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The cache was an option that would appear when you clicked on the three-dot icon next to a search result to open the “About this Result” window. The purpose was to let you access a page as it was last indexed by Google, a handy capability if the current live version of the page wouldn’t load properly. 

Over time, however, website operators and developers started using the feature to check their webpages for errors. Other people would use it to compare the differences between a live page and an older cached version.

Though the cache no longer appears as an option accessible from a search result, you can still view a cached version of a site, at least for now. In the URL field of your browser, type cache: followed by the domain name of the site, e.g., cache:zdnet.com. A message at the top of the page tells you that this is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on a certain date and time. But with Google set to retire the feature completely, this capability will go away soon as well, according to Sullivan.

The responses to the post on X indicate that several folks are none too happy to see the feature killed off by Google. Trying to find a bright spot amidst the sour news, Sullivan expressed his personal hope that Google might be able to add old webpage links to the Internet Archive, a site that offers a large collection of books, movies, music, and other content.

The Archive is also known for its Wayback Machine, home to more than 800 webpages saved over time where you can see a snapshot of a page from a specific date.

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Having Google’s cached pages accessible through the Archive would be a nice fit as it would let people see how a page has changed over time, Sullivan said. But he made no promises, explaining that Google would have to speak with the people behind the Archive to see how such a process might work.

“No promises,” he said. “We have to talk to them, see how it all might go — involves people well beyond me. But I think it would be nice all around.”

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