Friday, March 9, 2018

Excellent research tool -- the Wayback Machine browser extension

Hate 404 errors?  

I do. 

If you do active online research (which is pretty much the whole point of SearchResearch), you fairly often run into web pages that are 404.  When this happens, it means that the link you're trying to follow leads to a page that is missing.  It might have been removed by the author, or just moved elsewhere.  In any case, the link you've got doesn't work any more.  

This actually happens more often than you'd like.  

Normally, I'd just use Google's cache: operator like this: 


and Google will serve up its cached version of the page. 

But every so often, that cached version is missing as well.  THEN what? 

A friend told me about a Chrome extension called WayBack Machine that watches your browsing activity, and if you get a 404 error, it jumps in and offers to search for that URL on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine (which is an incredibly useful archive web page, including ones that have disappeared).  

In my case, I was looking at an old SearchResearch post which referred to the 

Alas, the cache: operator doesn't retrieve anything for this page.  

BUT the WayBack Machine operator jumped in and offered to find it for me.  The extension pops up a mildly annoying interstitial that looks like this: 

When you click on the "Click here to see archived version" it finds that web page when it was last archived by the Internet Archive.  

In this case, it brought up the archived page beautifully.  Now I can read what was once deleted.  

Here, it's gone all the way back to July of 2010.  

There is also a Firefox version and a Safari version.  (I don't know what to do in Internet Explorer.  If someone tells me, I'll update this post.)  

If you do much online research, I recommend this extension.  It'll save you a bunch of time.  

Search on! 


  1. Ironically, your link to the Chrome extension is incorrect and gives a 404 error!

    1. Ooops. That was a typo! Sorry about that.

    2. My apologies. I should really have included the correct link in my earlier comment. Thanks, as ever, for your always stimulating and helpful blog.

  2. The first link was supposed to take us to the Wayback Machine Chrome extension. Ironically, it opens a 404 page. :)

    Here's the correct link to the appropriate Google Web Store page: Wayback Machine.

    And thanks for the hint. I use the Wayback Machine from time to time but it's much easier with the extension, and I didn't know it!

  3. Good Morning, Dr. Russell!

    Very interesting and helpful, thanks for sharing. I don't know alos about Internet Explorer nor in Edge. However, I think this may help

    Wayback Machine Online if you don't want extensions or don't know how to add them.

    1. I should have included the regular Wayback Machine as well. Thanks--I'll include it now. (And I'll write a future post about it too. Every search engine has its little tricks and foibles. The WBM is no exception.)

    2. Thanks, Dr. Russell. It will be as always a pleasure to read you and learn those tricks and foibles (new word for me) Enjoy weekend

  4. that's the thing about your tips Dan, they always lead to interesting, often useful places… thanks
    404s & electric sheep, in one day… mind blown*
    "Electric Sheep is a distributed computing project for animating and evolving fractal flames, which are in turn distributed to the networked computers, which display them as a screensaver." The Internet Archive • 279 billion web pages
    *(…it would have been, if I still had one… Alexa/Siri/et al.… blown… virtually)
    a SERP of note
    Internet Archive work
    'news' is an interesting place to roam…