What you need to know
- Google cache links in search results have started to disappear, and the company has now confirmed the removal is intentional.
- Since the internet has become more reliable, Google thinks it’s time to retire cache links and the Cached button.
- Google’s Search Liaison suggested the Internet Archive as a possible replacement for cache links.
Cache links have been disappearing from Google Search results for months now, which led many to wonder whether it’s an intentional effort by Google. The company’s search liaison, Danny Sullivan, confirmed as much in a post on X this week. Citing the improvements in site reliability nowadays, he explained that Google found the feature redundant.
“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,” Sullivan wrote. “These days, things have greatly improved. So, it was decided to retire it.”
Cache links would sometimes appear in the About this result section of Google Search results, marked by a button titled Cached. Alternatively, users could manually add a cache to the beginning of a URL to launch the cached version of a site instantly. Both of these ways of accessing Google’s cache links are being phased out.
There are a few reasons why someone might want to pull up a cached version of a website. Essentially, a cache link will display a site as shown to Google. This can reduce some of the bloat and potential loading problems that come with user-facing sites. For reporters, cache links served as a pseudo time capsule, preserving the prior version of a website after it had been updated.
There’s no direct replacement for cache links as we knew them. However, you might think of the Internet Archive as a good alternative to cache links for finding older versions of websites. In fact, that’s exactly what Sullivan suggests as a replacement for cache links at some point in the future.
“Personally, I hope that maybe we’ll add links to Internet Archive from where we had the cache link before, within About This Result,” Suillivan wrote. “It’s such an amazing resource. For the information literacy goal of About The Result, I think it would also be a nice fit — allowing people to easily see how a page changed over time.”
However, Sullivan said there were “no promises” for that proposition, and that it “involves people well beyond me.” When one user criticized Sullivan, he noted again that discussions would have to be had with Internet Archive.
“To be clear, it’s something I personally think would be a nice thing to do,” he wrote. “But not something we’d do if we didn’t have an agreement that they also found valuable in some way.”
Regardless of whether Internet Archive links will become more prominent in Google Search results, they will undoubtedly become more useful. With the sunsetting of cache links, there are even fewer ways to retrieve old versions of websites.