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MANILA, Philippines – Google has removed cached website links from its Search results snippets, with Google search liaison Danny Sullivan confirming reports of the disappearance of the feature in a February 2 post on X, formerly Twitter.
Sullivan wrote that Search’s cached links were one of the search engine’s 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.”
A cached link lets you see a saved, likely older version, of a webpage, for when the website you’re trying to access the page from was down. The feature also lets you checked older versions of web pages, for when you’re trying to see whether a page has been updated, and what those updates were.
Ars Technica noted cached links “used to live under the drop-down menu next to every search result on Google’s page.” Cached links can be accessed by clicking on the 3-dots menu that appear on the right of a search result, leading to an “About this result” page.
When Google’s web crawler indexed and updated webpages, the system would also save copies of what was being seen by the webcrawler – essentially a backup of the internet akin to The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
The Verge, in its report, noted Search cache links were useful as a means of seeing “a webpage as Google sees it,” and also allowed SEO professionals to better debug their websites or watch the competition.
The site added that for news gatherers and people monitoring differences on a website (such as changes to wording or details being removed from a webpage), cached links were also very useful as a tracking mechanism.
Search Engine Roundtable also reported the gradual demise of cached links across December and January. The Verge also found reference to it being called a “basically unmaintained legacy feature” by Google developer relations engineer Martin Splitt back in April 2021.
While cached links may be going away gradually, Sullivan personally hoped a deal could be brokered between The Internet Archive and Google, so that Wayback Machine links could replace cached links.
For now, however, expect to lose some semblance of the web as we know it in the interim. – Rappler.com