Google has removed links to page caches from its search results page, the company’s search liaison Danny Sullivan has confirmed. “It was meant for helping people access pages when way back, you often couldn’t depend on a page loading,” Sullivan wrote on X. “These days, things have greatly improved. So, it was decided to retire it.”
The cache feature historically let you view a webpage as Google sees it, which is useful for a variety of different reasons beyond just being able to see a page that’s struggling to load. SEO professionals could use it to debug their sites or even keep tabs on competitors, and it can also be an enormously helpful news gathering tool, giving reporters the ability to see exactly what information a company has added (or removed) from a website, and a way to see details that people or companies might be trying to scrub from the web. Or, if a site is blocked in your region, Google’s cache can work as a great alternative to a VPN.
A page’s cache has typically been accessible via a couple of different routes. There was a “Cached” button that would appear at the bottom of the “About this result” panel accessible from the three button menu next to a search result. And, for those in the know, you could also append the prefix “cache:” to a URL before searching for it to hop instantly into Google’s cached version.
Here’s how the Cached button used to appear in search results back in 2021 versus what I’m seeing as of today:
The removal of Google’s cache links has been taking place gradually over the past couple of months and isn’t complete just yet. Over at Search Engine Roundtable Barry Schwartz spotted that the links were disappearing intermittently from search results in early December, and the removed entirely as of the end of January. In his tweet, Danny Sullivan confirmed that in addition to removing the links, the “cache:” search operator will also be going away “in the near future.”
Although the cache links are only now being discontinued, the writing’s been on the wall for a while. In early 2021, Google developer relations engineer Martin Splitt said the cached view was a “basically unmaintained legacy feature.”
It doesn’t sound like Google has any immediate plans to replace the feature, but Sullivan says he hopes that Google could add links to the Internet Archive that could instead be used to show how a webpage has changed over time. “No promises,” he cautions. “We have to talk to them, see how it all might go — involves people well beyond me. But I think it would be nice all around.”