Google flushes cached search results forever

Chap in charge hopes the Internet Archive is willing to pipe in historical search results as a substitute

Google has stopped offering links to cached versions of web pages alongside search results.

A Friday Xeet from the Google Search Liaison Twitter/X account, which is run by a chap named Danny Sullivan, responded to netizens' queries about the absence of links to cached results, confirmed they've gone, and offered an explanation.

"Yes, it's been removed," the account stated. "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."

He's right: cached links made a valuable difference in the dialup age. They remain useful today – The Register often consults them as tech companies often overwrite or delete pages. We sometime enter the string "cache:" into Google search specifically to do so, as that syntax produces cached results. Sadly that's going away, too.

Happily, if Sullivan has his way, historical results will still appear in Google searches.

"I hope that maybe we'll add links to @internetarchive from where we had the cache link before, within About This Result. It's such an amazing resource. For the information literacy goal of About The Result, I think it would also be a nice fit – allowing people to easily see how a page changed over time," he wrote.

Sadly, that arrangement is just a dream for now.

"No promises. 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," Sullivan wrote, before adding further caveats to the effect that "To be clear, it's something I personally think would be a nice thing to do but not something we'd do if we didn't have an agreement that they also found valuable in some way."

For what it's worth, the Internet Archive doesn't list Google or among its list of generous donors. But it did recently link to an article critical of Google's decision to end availability of cached links that points out the Big G hasn't stopped caching content – just stopped making that cache available.

Sullivan noted that anyone with a Search Console account can use URL Inspector to see what Google's crawler saw looking at their own page, with a visit to this page. Which isn't very useful unless you have a short recovery point objective for your web content. ®

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