Google confirms that cache links have been removed from search results

Ashwin
Feb 2, 2024
Updated • Feb 2, 2024
Google
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19

Google Search has removed cache links from the search results. The feature allowed users to view old versions of web pages.

The tool was useful to compare the current version of a page and a previous version, to see if the contents were edited. For example, you could use it to read the privacy policy of a service, or use it to access pages that were taken down.

Google retires cache links from search results

Search Engine Land's Barry Schwartz had reported that cache links were not appearing in the search results snippets a week ago. He had asked Danny Sullivan, Google's Public Liaison for Search, whether the removal was permanent. Sullivan replied to his query to confirm that the Mountain View company has indeed retired the feature.

The Cache operator still works, you can use it as follows. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:sitename. For example, https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:ghacks.net

Google retires cache links from search results

But this is going away too. Sullivan says that cache: links will disappear completely in the near future. The search engine will respect the noarchive tags on websites. Sullivan explained that Google Cache links were originally designed to help people access pages reliably, e.g. when a web page would not load. The feature was retired because things have "greatly improved", possibly referring to faster internet connections.

Google could add Internet Archive links in search results

That said, all may not be lost for people who used the feature. Sullivan says he hopes that Google will add links to the Internet Archive to the search results, to replace the Google Cache links in the About This Result section that can be accessed by clicking the three-dot menu next to each result.

This however has not been finalized. Google has to talk with the Internet Archive to potentially discuss an agreement about adding the Wayback Machine cache links to search results. This might be difficult as it could drive a significant amount of traffic to the service, and Google may have to compensate the Internet Archive for handling the requests. The non-profit organization has a massive library that hosts billions of web pages, millions of videos, pictures, audio files, games, software, books, etc. The service had an annual budget of $36 million in 2019.

The Internet Archive is a nice alternative for Google Cache links, but it's not a perfect solution. You can paste a URL in the search box at https://archive.org/ to find a previous version of the web page. The only caveat is that an archived version of the page would only be available if someone had saved a copy of it previously. Google's web crawler on the other hand, used to save cached pages of all websites that the search engine had access to. So it covered a lot more ground. It is possible that a deal between Google and the Internet Archive could automate the caching process, but it could be an expensive ordeal.

The Internet Archive is an invaluable tool as it can allow access to dead websites, and popular web pages that are no longer available on the web. I recommend using the Wayback Machine Extension, which is an official add-on by the Internet Archive. You can add it to Firefox or Chrome to save a current version of a web page, or access archived versions easily. You don't need to sign up for an account at Archive.org to use the browser extension.

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Google confirms that cache links have been removed from search results
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Google confirms that cache links have been removed from search results
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Google has removed cache links from search results snippets.
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Comments

  1. aweebitunlovable said on February 4, 2024 at 1:51 am
    Reply

    I have a sneaking suspicion that some powerful people wanted some information gone. lesson learned from good old barbara. google can make some noise from every direction while some hard drives are wiped and the dirty details were being swept under the rug.

    I’m a bit surprised internet archive has resisted a buyout from the big tech companies for so long.

  2. Karl said on February 3, 2024 at 6:25 pm
    Reply

    Are they joking? One of the most stupid decisions coming from Google lately. They should not shut the cache down but keep it up, it was very useful. And Google got the “horse power” to keep it running. Web Archive taking over and “filling the gap”? Never. A very stupid idea, they are running a pure archive, a time capsule, and not some kind of cache that index new websites as they appear more or less instantly world wide like Google do! I love the Web Archive. But several times a week when archiving via Web Archive I see a message that read similar to: “the capture will start in 2 hours since we are overloaded right now”. How the heck does the Big Google think such service will take over and handle the load that used to be done over at the Google Cache on Google Servers?!!! Pure insanity. The Web Archive and Google Cache was Complementing each other in a very great way as it was! Google need to re-think this ASAP and keep the cache alive.

  3. Mike said on February 3, 2024 at 1:45 am
    Reply

    My spidey senses are indicating that this is about companies not wanting me to be able to find anything online which isn’t the most up-to-date (and hyper-edited for reasons of political correctness or general censorship) versions of websites.

    One wonders how long before all other search engines do the same thing. When one entity implements an anti-user policy/feature, all competitors inevitably follow.

  4. Scroogled said on February 2, 2024 at 10:33 pm
    Reply

    Google search is dying. Since 2018, their results have been meaningless because of removing results due to DMCA abuse and promoting SEO trash to the top. Image search sucks, no reverse option, hiding results for certain keywords. Additionally, their material design is aesthetically unappealing. Currently, I use Yandex and Startpages. These are both comparable to the original Google search.

    1. boris said on February 6, 2024 at 12:04 am
      Reply

      By using Yandex you are just substituting one censorship for another.

    2. ShintoPlasm said on February 3, 2024 at 10:20 pm
      Reply

      Startpage literally uses Google for its search results…

  5. bruh said on February 2, 2024 at 10:59 am
    Reply

    Pure stupidity, this is a classic case of big players deciding they don’t need to keep trying because they’re on top, so time to clamp down on user experience and any kind of niceties. First google nuked their great reverse image search feature which was like a slightly worse tin-eye with better filtering options and DIFFERENT search results, so it used to always be worth using both when looking for something.

    Now they go and nuke the cache feature – this was such a useful thing to have, it was better than wayback machine because it loaded quickly and was guaranteed to be a recent snapshot with no faff, sure functionally it did the same as wayback machine, but it sometimes had stuff wayback machine didn’t have, so another lost useful feature.

    Keep taking stuff away, soon you won’t be left with much!

  6. Tom Hawack said on February 2, 2024 at 10:42 am
    Reply

    I don’t use Google services.

    I do happen to search archived webpages, with :

    1- Wayback Classic : [https://wayback-classic.net/]
    “Wayback Classic retrieves data from The Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine is run by the Internet Archive.”
    Search page on Wayback Classic : [https://wayback-classic.net/cgi-bin/history.cgi?q=%s]

    2- Archive.today : [https://archive.today/]
    “It saves a text and a graphical copy of the page for better accuracy”
    Save page to Archive.today : [https://archive.today/?run=1&url=%s]

    1. bruh said on February 2, 2024 at 3:16 pm
      Reply

      “I don’t use Google services.” if you needed to see a cache of a website that is gone, and none of the typical services has it, but google did, i’m sure you’d probably change your way of thinking temporarily. People weren’t using this feature for fun.

      1. Tom Hawack said on February 3, 2024 at 2:18 pm
        Reply

        @bruh, if I needed — desperately — to see a cache of a website that is gone, and none of the typical services had it, but Google did, I’d initiate a temporary exception. Everything is flexible here, no hard-code, a point I’m very touchy with. For instance, given I use front-ends to access YouTube videos, all of YouTube (together with Google) servers are blocked system-wide, yet I added a whitelist to my DNSCrypt-proxy blocklists to allow only the strict minimum YouTube servers IN CASE all front-ends would fail :

        ## DNSCRYPT – WHITELIST-DOM FOR YOUTUBE (brackets here for correct rendering)
        [googlevideo.com]
        [jnn-pa.googleapis.com]
        [youtube.com]
        [youtube-nocookie.com]
        [youtube-ui.l.google.com]
        [wide-youtube.l.google.com]
        [yt3.ggpht.com]
        [ytimg.com]

        The YouTube front-ends catch (proxy) the YouTube link before it ever lands on YouTube servers and I have not added system-wide lists to UBO, hence I can still use YouTube be it absolutely required. The same policy applies to most work-arounds, mainly for two exceptions, Google Maps when its Street View has no viable alternative and [translate.googleapis.com] because it is required by the ‘TWP – Translate Web Pages’ extension I use exclusively for translating whole Web pages (otherwise I call upon ‘DeepL Translate’ which would require registration to translate whole Web pages).

        Flexibility means user freedom, no point in jailing ourselves with blockers when a fast switch is made available.

      2. John G. said on February 3, 2024 at 1:42 am
        Reply

        @bruh > “People weren’t using this feature for fun.”

        Fun is so overrated that the pathological behavior is not too very clear currently in Europe.

        Indeed, Covid19 disease was the perfect factory machine to distress people all around.

        Avoid thinking so much, they all will erase everything to disallow people to remember.

    2. Tom Hawack said on February 2, 2024 at 12:09 pm
      Reply

      EDIT, sorry :

      I should have mentioned (as well/rather) :
      2- Archive.today
      Search page on Archive.today : [https://archive.today/%s]

  7. Anonymous said on February 2, 2024 at 9:45 am
    Reply

    we need more cache website to fight censorship especially from u.s govt

    1. John G. said on February 3, 2024 at 1:18 am
      Reply

      There is censorship everywhere.

    2. Rubeus Dekkchair said on February 2, 2024 at 1:43 pm
      Reply

      Wut?

      Dude, ffs…

      1. Anonymous said on February 3, 2024 at 1:41 am
        Reply

        Read Orwell’s 1984 and you’ll understand what he means (in 1984, history is continuously rewritten by the government and all official history is permanently adapted to the current doctrine … just like eg the soviet union purged people from official images, once they had fallen from grace)

        oh, and yes this is obviously something all governments in the world are tempted to do, once long enough in power, trying to ensure that it remains exactly that way.
        Of course the more authoritarian and less democratic the state, the higher the risk of this hapening, but even long standing administrations in democratic states will be tempted to do so, if it just fits their agenda enough. Politics is solely about power, not truth, honesty, legality or whatever. Same with corporations although here it’s primarily money and only secondarily power .

        A somewhat reliable source regarding the past (in this case the web past, which is otherwise largely undocumented due to it’s highly dynamical nature) is thus a good thing. It going away is pretty bad. This means that the Wayback engine is the last credible source and it is far, far, FAR from being complete.

      2. Tom Hawack said on February 4, 2024 at 11:33 am
        Reply

        @Anonymous,

        > “Politics is solely about power, not truth, honesty, legality or whatever.”

        Though I’d consider that the “solely” is arguable, particularly in democratic regimes, what frightens me the most is that “Politics” in your assertion could be — and increasingly seems to be — replaced by “People’s behavior”. The chicken and the egg : who started shifting to “power, not truth, honesty, legality or whatever”? Politics or people?

        Nothing changes, everything worsens when I, as an individual, consider myself as the center of the world and behave accordingly : me first, me only, live and let die, when not live and kill. At the end of the analysis, at the start of all causes, there is my behavior towards others, brothers and sisters. Blend that or not with religion is a personal choice, if not a grace if applicable, but above all forget “moralism” because moralism basically opposes intelligence and virtue. Consider consciousness. Humanity will start a new era when it will cease to oppose intelligence and brotherhood, because brotherhood is ultimately the most intelligent, the wisest approach. I firmly believe that striving for a better world and not behaving ourselves accordingly is insane.

      3. JD said on February 3, 2024 at 8:12 pm
        Reply

        My very first thought on this article was, I wonder if this was done at the request of the Ministry of Truth.

      4. just an Ed said on February 2, 2024 at 5:07 pm
        Reply

        We need caching to save sites from ALL government censorship. None are to be trusted.

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