Google will no longer be keeping a backup of the entire Internet. Google Search’s “cached” links have long been an alternative way to load a website that was down or had changed, but now the company is killing them off. Google “Search Liaison” Danny Sullivan confirmed the feature removal in an X post, saying the feature “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 feature has been appearing and disappearing for some people since December, and currently, we don’t see any cache links in Google Search. For now, you can still build your own cache links even without the button, just by going to “https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:” plus a website URL, or by typing “cache:” plus a URL into Google Search. For now, the cached version of Ars Technica seems to still work. All of Google’s support pages about cached sites have been taken down.
Cached links used to live under the drop-down menu next to every search result on Google’s page. As the Google web crawler scoured the Internet for new and updated webpages, it would also save a copy of whatever it was seeing. That quickly led to Google having a backup of basically the entire Internet, using what was probably an uncountable number of petabytes of data. Google is in the era of cost savings now, so assuming Google can just start deleting cache data, it can probably free up a lot of resources.
The death of cached sites will mean the Internet Archive has a larger burden of archiving and tracking changes on the world’s webpages.