Firefox ditches 404s in favour of archived pages

Mozilla's browser is trialling showing older versions of a webpage instead of an error message

Sick of stumbling across pointless 404 pages when looking for something online? Mozilla's got your back - and the Wayback Machine to help. 

The Firefox maker is trialling an add-on that shows an archived version of a webpage rather than a 404 error, which is the message shown if a page has been deleted or is otherwise no longer available, but is still being linked to from other sites or search engines.

The archived pages will be sourced from the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, which takes snapshots of websites. 

"Tired of dead ends on the web?" Mozilla asked. "We'll let you know when there's a saved version of what you're looking for on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine."

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If there's an archived page available, Firefox will give users the option of viewing it, so you won't see an old page and think the information on it is up to date. And as not all websites are archived by the Wayback Machine, you'll still see some 404 pages.

The system works via a Firefox add-on or extension, which scans the text on the page to see if it's showing a 404, and then checks if the Internet Archive has a version to display. 

To test the system, you'll need to be running Mozilla's "test pilot" version of Firefox, which trials experimental new features in the browser, before deciding whether they should be rolled out to everyone else. To use the add-on, you'll need to install the Test Pilot extension, and then install the 404 No More trial. 

As ghacks notes, there are existing third-party add-ons that do a similar job, notably the Resurrect Pages extension, which checks for cached versions of pages. Google also lets you view cached pages directly from search result pages by clicking the drop down button next to links. 

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