Remember cached links? They were underlined in green text reading “Cached” next to the main link when you searched for something on Google.
Granted, they weren’t an essential part of searching online but they were useful at providing a snapshot of a webpage’s content if the live site was unavailable or changed.
Well, they’re gone now.
Google has confirmed the removal of cache links from search results due to improved reliability of the internet.
In a previous era when you weren’t sure if your internet page would load, Google cache would have you covered, and it also enabled access to sites or info that could be blocked in a particular region.
Search Engine Land‘s Barry Schwartz reported initially on cache links not appearing in the search results last week, resulting in a question to Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Liaison for Search.
Schwartz queried whether this was a permanent change, as below.
Hey, catching up. Yes, it's been removed. 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…
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) February 1, 2024
Sullivan responded, “Yes, it’s been removed. 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.”
The Google executive hopes the company can add further links to search results on the Internet Archive as a replacement but that was from a personal perspective, “no promises”, he advised.
There will need to be open dialogue with the American digital library service to see what is possible but the required resources (as well as potential compensation) will be significant, given the traffic that will be driven to the source.
With the cache links now disappearing, it doesn’t come as a shock, but more of an inevitability. Back in 2021, Martin Splitt, a developer relations engineer at Google described what was a “basically unmaintained legacy feature.”
Typically, you could access a cache version of a page in a couple of different ways. There was a “Cached” button present at the bottom of the “About this result” panel accessible from the three-button menu next to a search result. That would be the default route for many but for those more clued-up, you could add a “cache:” prefix to a URL before searching to instantly return Google’s cached version.
Featured image: Dall-E