Cache Clearing

Google appears to hide away an important feature from its search engine—an easily accessible cache of search results. (It’s still there, if you know where to look.)

By Ernie Smith

I have to imagine that Google did not make a lot of money from people pinging its search engine for cached website results, but making it convenient to access was a service to searchers.

It was also somewhat of a service to society. Often, when information-related scandals broke—such as content with egregious errors, evidence of deleted social media statements, or information at risk of appearing offline in short order—it was a great backstop that worked more effectively than the Internet Archive for capturing fresh information.

And yet, for some reason, Google has treated this feature like it was embarrassed of it. Over the years, it has increasingly come to bury the feature in its search interface, making it harder and harder to find, despite me finding it just as useful as it was the day it launched.

Recently, the company started removing it entirely, something uncovered by the SEO sphere’s closest thing to an investigative journalist, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable. As he writes:

After a couple of months of testing, it seems Google has now removed the cache link from the search results page. I no longer see a link to the Google cache within search result snippets, but that doesn’t mean you cannot access [the] cache, you can. Now when you click the three dots for more information for a search result snippet, the cache button is missing.

To be clear, the cache is not gone—it is simply hidden from public view. (I don’t see it on my end, either.) You can access it manually by typing in a specialized URL, along the lines of But by choosing not to present it to people as they’re searching, you can’t point your cursor in that general direction. Defaults remain essential to how we experience computers, and we fail to do enough to ensure they stay put.

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The removal of this feature represents multiple things: First, a changing, more dynamic internet in which more content is built with the requirement of JavaScript, something that is largely incompatible with the caching feature. And second, a decision built with the bottom line in mind—after all, if you click a website accessed through Google’s cache, you don’t pull up the ads from Google AdSense that generally appear when you look at the normal version of the site.

Now, to be clear, Google is still caching pages all over the internet. After all, caching is a key element of the AMP initiative that has shaped much of how people use its search engine over the past near-decade. Google just doesn’t want you to use it as an alternative to seeing the actual search result.

I have typically suggested that Google’s results aren’t necessarily getting worse in an era of generative AI, despite arguments to the contrary being in vogue. But I feel like the evidence supporting the claim is becoming harder to ignore.

Thinking as a journalist, if I’m trying to uncover something or follow a thread that seems to be falling apart by the second, I don’t want a tool like this taken away from me. But in the last year, we have increasingly seen these tools degraded and damaged by large companies that have decided they’re no longer in their best interest. For example, Meta’s Threads has discouraged chronological search, while the site I call Twitter has made it harder to find links on external platforms. I would often search for YouTube videos on Twitter to understand their virality—I can’t do that anymore.

There are valid arguments against making such tools easily accessible. After all, if abuse or brigading is a major factor on a given platform, as Meta has long had to deal with on Instagram, having immediate access to recent comments opens up bullying opportunities.

And maybe having those cached sites so easily accessible invited some kind of legal pressure that Google didn’t want to deal with anymore.

But I can’t help but feel that this is just another sign that we can’t trust valuable features in the hands of large companies anymore. They too often shape and frame the way we access and manage data, and when they feel like taking it away, that’s what they’ll do.

Uncached Links

Nilay Patel’s review of the Apple Vision Pro for The Verge is a masterclass in great reviewing, separating the hype around a buzzy device from what it can actually do and what its actual limits are.

Tommy Wiseau, who inspires all my good ideas, stars in a new ad for 1Password, which brings me a unique level of joy. (Ryan Reynolds’ ad agency, Maximum Effort, was involved, because of course it was.) This ad assuredly has a bigger budget than The Room.

Adobe has decided to stop competing with Figma entirely, throwing its XD software overboard. (Side note for switchers: Penpot is about to come out with a big upgrade!)


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Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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