404 Day celebrates the internet's most infamous no-show

Nothing is forever, not even a web page

Forget chocolate eggs, the only event that really mattered this week was 404 Day.

April 4 (4/04 – geddit?) marks when internet users around the world celebrate that most humble and yet essential part of web infrastructure – the 404 error, thrown when a page or resource that should be there is absent.

The number refers to the error code when a browser was able to connect to a given server or resource, but whatever was requested – for example, a web page – was not found.

As the World Wide Web ages, 404 errors are becoming depressingly more commonplace, thanks to links pointing to pages that have long since been taken down or moved.

Plenty of administrators with time on their hands have sought ways to ease the pain just a little by customizing the default 404 page with something that might bring a wry smile through the tears.

404 Day, therefore, celebrates the unsung heroes seeking to bring a little humanity and creativity to what would otherwise be a frustrating error message, while also standing as a reminder that the World Wide Web needs to be maintained and looked after.

This writer is an unashamed space nerd, all too familiar with NASA's "The cosmic object you were looking for has disappeared beyond the event horizon" and ESA's "You've lost your orbit, captain!"

The tech giants are a little less twee. Microsoft and IBM have resolutely refused to join in the fun, although Oracle's 404 page proclaims: "We found a phone. But the page you were looking for is still missing." Admittedly, 404 might as well refer to the number of pages in its licensing documentation, the way things are going.

Developers have a bit more fun as GitHub's Star Wars-inspired effort demonstrates.

We probably spent a bit too long chatting with Grot, Grafana's AI chatbot that resides on the company's 404 page, but the award for the most creative interpretation of a 404 has to go to that most sober of publications, the Financial Times — well played.

Of course, we have our own take on the 404 error, which might as well be a webcam showing feverish activity here at Vulture Central when the editor isn't looking.

So, the 404 error page. Something to have a bit of fun with, or a stark reminder that not everything on the World Wide Web is forever? ®

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