In a significant move, Google has decided to discontinue its practice of backing up the entire Internet through the removal of the “cached” links feature in Google Search. The cached links, which served as an alternative means to access websites that were down or had undergone changes, are no longer available, as confirmed by Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan in an official post. According to Sullivan, the feature, initially designed to aid users in accessing pages during times of unreliable loading, has become obsolete due to significant improvements in today’s internet reliability.
This feature removal has been noticed by users since December, and currently, cache links are not visible in Google Search. Although the button has been eliminated, users can still generate their own cache links by visiting “https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:” followed by a website URL or by typing “cache:” plus a URL directly into Google Search. Despite this, Google’s support pages regarding cached sites have been taken down.
The cached links, formerly accessible through a drop-down menu next to search results, were a result of Google’s web crawler saving copies of webpages it encountered while indexing the Internet. This massive archive provided insights into the evolution of the web and how Google’s web crawlers perceived it over time. In an era of cost savings, Google’s decision to discontinue this feature suggests a shift in priorities, likely freeing up considerable resources.
With Google no longer maintaining a backup of the Internet, the burden of archiving and tracking changes on the world’s webpages now falls more heavily on entities like the Internet Archive. As users adapt to the absence of cached links, it remains to be seen how this change will impact the broader landscape of internet accessibility and archival efforts.