Happy 404 Day! 

Saturday is April 4th (4/04), and here at the Internet Archive we’re marking a new holiday: 404 Day! We’re using this date to celebrate the work that’s being done to end the dreaded 404 error, record changing webpages, and preserve the internet for all to enjoy. We spoke with Gary Price—librarian, editor of InfoDocket, and a prolific user of the Wayback Machine—about why web archiving is important and how ordinary people can fight back against “link rot.” 

Preserving the Past

Why does the Wayback Machine matter? “We’re in a period right now where the tools the Internet Archive has developed are more important than ever before,” Price said. “In my work as a librarian I’ve learned how easily things can ‘disappear’. Something you see could be removed within a fraction of a second, and the next time you look it’s gone.”

An old hymnal board at the Internet Archive's 
headquarters—filled in with HTTP response codes
An old hymnal board at the Internet Archive’s
headquarters—filled in with HTTP response codes

Similar losses have happened for newly developed media in the past, Price explained. For example, a huge amount of early television footage disappeared because nobody recorded or archived it at the time. The issue is compounded when dealing with a massive system like the Internet, which is constantly growing and changing. “There’s really nothing like the Wayback Machine,” he said. “It’s so important for historical purposes.”

Price believes that it’s even more crucial to preserve information in the midst of a crisis. “With COVID-19,” he said, “we have a global event going on where nobody knows how it’s going to end. Most of it is going to play out on the Internet. If we don’t archive it now, the record for the future is not going to be as complete as it could have been. We need to make it so that we’ll have a complete record of this pandemic to learn from: primary documents, news reports, local materials, and digital ephemera.”

Making the Most of the Wayback Machine

There are a number of useful tools that can make the Wayback Machine part of your daily internet experience. If you want to avoid running into 404 errors in the future, then the easiest thing you can do is integrate the Wayback Machine into your browser. We’ve created a handy series of browser extensions for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox that allow you to view archived versions of webpages with just the click of a button. And if you use the Brave browser, that functionality is directly integrated into the browsing experience!

The Wayback Machine browser extension
The Wayback Machine browser extension in action

Curious about how a webpage has shifted over time? The Changes feature is an easy way to compare two versions of the same webpage side-by-side. We deployed this feature last fall to make it easier than ever to see how the web is evolving.

In addition to the hundreds of millions of URLs archived by the Wayback Machine staff every day, several tens of millions of URLs are archived because they were submitted by the general public via the Save Page Now feature. If you come across something that you think needs to be preserved, you can use this tool to ensure that the Wayback Machine captures a snapshot of it. It’s as simple as visiting web.archive.org/save and pasting your desired URL in. If you have the browser plugin, you can save any page you visit with the click of a button!

The Save Page Now feature
The Save Page Now feature

Getting Started

What advice does Price have for beginning archivers? “The first thing to do,” he says, “is to sign up for an Internet Archive account. It gives you a lot of great features, but my favorite is the option to not only archive a page, but also to archive all of those outbound links in that page.”

Price also recommends that new users make their archiving personal. “Just start recording things you’re already looking at on a daily basis! The articles you read, interesting websites, information pages from your university, local news, and so on. It doesn’t take a long time—you’re already reading the webpage, so just press the ‘Save Page Now’ button.”

Since big news stories or major websites are usually crawled automatically, Price recommends that citizen archivists make sure to include local, personal, and small-scale websites. “It’s about the little stuff, the obscure stuff, the stuff that’s buried three layers deep. That’s not going to get covered in the same way as the most popular content, and it might not get covered at all if you don’t add it. That’s why the individual doing it is so important.”

Last but not least, Price says, “Do what you can! Add stuff that you’re interested in or think is worth saving. Make it a habit, and spread the word to people you know!”

If you want to celebrate 404 Day with us, there are a lot of ways to get started! Download the Firefox, Chrome, or Safari browser extensions, save a webpage, revisit the past, or make a donation to help us keep the Wayback Machine humming along.

Happy archiving!

One of the earliest captures of AOL.com
One of the earliest captures of AOL.com

29 thoughts on “Happy 404 Day! 

  1. گیتار موزیک

    Hi Thanks Internet Archive, Can I Use firefox addon Instead of archive.org?

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  3. Maxwell Bogie

    Happy 404 Day from all of us here at Wayback Machine with Internet Archive for the 90s, 00s, 10s and 20s. That sounds good to me! Please let us know if Saturday is 404 Day for my web pages and browsers on my Internet Access. Thank you for writing me down about my Comment and Don’t forget that Saturday is 404 error Day in 2020! Thanks for me having with you here. Goodbye!

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  5. Carol Simon Levin

    I wanted to comment on the previous post regarding the controversy around the National Emergency Library expressed in this Smithsonian Article https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/controversy-surrounds-national-emergency-library-180974554/ but the comments were closed.

    As a librarian and an author, I completely understand the concern of authors & illustrators & publishers but would hope everyone would look at the whole picture. We are in a time of (inter)national emergency when literally billions of students around the world lack access to libraries. Many families are losing loved ones and/or jobs and are worried about rent & food money. Most of the titles in this collection are out-of-print so the author/publisher wouldn’t be getting much in the way of royalties anyway. Isn’t this a perfect opportunity to give everyone a chance to borrow the books they need and make everyone’s lives just a little bit easier? It might even expose kids, teens, and adults to authors they could get excited about — making them want to purchase (or ask their library to purchase) the next title an author releases!

    Perhaps the Internet Archive could have a pop-up to clarify things, something like:

    We are in a time of (inter)national emergency when literally billions of students around the world have lost access to classrooms and libraries. Many families are losing loved ones and/or jobs and are worried about rent and food money.

    For the duration of the coronavirus crisis, the Internet Archive has created this National Emergency Library for students, scholars, and general readers so that reading for learning, research, and pleasure can continue.

    We ask that you remember that many authors & illustrators are hurting like so many others in this difficult time so if you find a book you love and it is in print and you can afford it, please consider purchasing a copy through your favorite bookstore.

    Stay safe and sane! — Carol Simon Levin, retired Youth Services Librarian and author of Remembering the Ladies: From Patriots in Petticoats to Presidential Candidates available to borrow from the National Emergency Library, to download and print at https://tellingherstories.com, or to buy in print at Amazon.com and other online retailers. I also have created a compilation of fun family sites for at-home learning at https://tinyurl.com/familylearningideas which encourages families to make use of this wonderful resource. Thank you!!

  6. Gannon (J) Dick

    “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the Internet Archive and its National Emergency Library last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.””; as some English guy once remarked. I donno, look it up ! Happy 404 Day indeed. The NEL and crossword puzzles may be the only thing keeping parents of small children now working from home sane at the moment.

    Librarian Confidential: It seems somebody else may have had the idea first.
    Press release | 31 January 2020 | Wellcome Foundation
    Sharing research data and findings relevant to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak : https://wellcome.ac.uk/press-release/sharing-research-data-and-findings-relevant-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

    Doing my part: I am the ADMIN for the PII domain at PURL.ORG (disclaimer: now owned by the Internet Archive). HTTP Redirects are a nice way to control access to Professional Resources, like those in the Public Domain, but behind firewalls.

    Public Access: https://www.purl.org/pii/training/validation
    Professional Access: https://www.purl.org/pii/training/hipaa
    How it works for nosy people: https://www.purl.org/pii/handsoff
    It turns out that experts in a hurry are as addicted to ‘one-click’ shopping as the rest of us. The difference nowadays is that people sometimes work behind Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – with one hand tied behind their backs so to speak.The PURLs are a simple fix for a degradation in manual dexterity. You’re welcome millennial’s.

    Be Safe,


  7. golsarmusic

    Happy 404 Day , but i hate this page because of this i redirected all the 404 page to my home page haha

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  10. Sanu Singh

    This is great information. I love waybackmachine tool. It’s helped me alot to find the history of any website.

    Thank you for such tool.

  11. Magicpotions

    Preserving the past is indeed important thing in today’s era. Thanks for the great article.

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  13. Michael Wright

    Speaking of 404, I remember way back in the days when Yahoo had a TV commercial where it has a room of a bunch of old men in seats looking at a large set of letters on rotating wheels. The letters spell out a word, one of the men holds up a sign that says 404, and he yells “file not found!” Another guy with a binder says, “how about compromising pictures of Coolidge?” The scene breaks and shows Yahoo in their trademark lettering indicating for reliable searches use Yahoo.

    I’m thinking there must be a collection of videos people have saved of internet site commercials in the 1990s, maybe I’ll take a look around.

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