Google Retires Cached Site Links, Pushing Users Towards Internet Archive
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Google has officially discontinued the “cached” link feature, which allowed users to access archived backups of websites. This feature had been a long-standing component of Google Search, offering a way to access webpages that were either unavailable or had undergone changes.
According to Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan, the purpose of this feature was to assist users in accessing pages when, in the past, page loading was often unreliable. However, with significant improvements in page loading reliability over time, Google has decided to retire this feature.
Sullivan also mentioned the possibility of Google collaborating with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to display historical versions of web pages within Google’s “About This Result” feature. Nevertheless, he emphasized that these discussions are ongoing, and any potential collaboration has not been confirmed.
For website owners and developers interested in understanding how Google’s crawler interprets their pages, Sullivan recommended using the URL Inspector tool within Google Search Console, which continues to be available as a resource.
The Cost of Data Storage
In the past, cached links were easily accessible through a dropdown menu next to each search result. As Google’s web crawler indexed the internet, it created backups of websites, effectively building an archive of a substantial portion of the internet’s content.
Recently, Google has shifted its focus towards cost savings, and the decision to delete this cache data is aimed at freeing up computing resources.
Over the past few months, the cached link feature has been gradually disappearing. Presently, no cached links are visible in Google Search results, and all Google support pages related to cached links have been taken down.
The Expanding Role of the Internet Archive
With Google discontinuing cached links, the responsibility of archiving websites largely falls upon the Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine.
Browser extensions like the Official Wayback Machine Extension enable users to easily access archived copies of websites.
The Wayback Machine Extension offers a range of features, including saving webpages, restoring missing pages, reading digitized books, sharing archived links on social media, and more. Most of these features can be used without the need for an account.
Creating Personal Cache Links
For users who still want to access cached pages, there are alternatives available. You can reveal some cached versions by typing “cache:” followed by a URL into Google Search. Additionally, you can generate your own cache links by adding a website URL to “https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:”
Google’s decision to discontinue its web caching service indicates a shift in how online content is stored and made accessible over time. With Google discontinuing this feature, the responsibility for preserving older versions of webpages and maintaining the history of the internet falls more heavily on organizations like the Internet Archive.
As the online world continues to evolve rapidly, entities like the Archive that deliberately maintain caches of websites and data will become increasingly important in preserving a record of the internet’s history.