The first web-published book, on 2000-01-07.

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Find A Missing Web Link

I really do have trouble with some people who think it's kewl to move around files in their server. Please consider that most academic indexes only get updated once every 1-3 years or never at all. If you feel that your page gets better vibes in some other directory or on some other machine, learn how to do redirections!

- Daniel Schneider; Educational VR (MUD).

How can you find a missing webpage? There are several things you can try to find a missing webpage or link. A missing page is usually indicated by the web error message 404 Not Found, returned when the URL is misspelled or the page no longer exists. The first 4 indicates a client error, the 0 a syntax error, and the final 4 that the problem is a page not found.

You can obtain a site address by hand, voice, or on paper, but copying and pasting from an electronic document is best since it guarantees that it's spelled correctly -- select the address with your mouse, copy it with <ctrl>-c, and then paste it into the site location field of your browser and press return.

Troubleshooting. When a page turns up missing, you can try to find it with the following steps:

  • Web archive. There was a time when a web page that was taken down could be unexpectedly lost forever. However, if the page was popular or around long enough, a copy might well have been stored in a web archive.
  • Net connection. If the error message says that the site can't be found or reached, check to see if you can reach other sites. Check an up-to-the minute news site you haven't visited yet in this session, so that you can be sure it wasn't just loaded from your cache.
    • If you can reach other sites, then your Internet connection is fine.

    • If you can't reach any other site, then your Internet connection is down. Check all your cables, and if necessary reboot and reconnect.
  • Character case. Domain names are usually not case sensitive, but URL path descriptions sometime are. Make sure that the page address has the same mix of upper and lower case as specified in the URL where you originally found it.
  • Site can't be found. If the error message says that the whole site can't be found, then either the site address is misspelled, the original address was wrong, the site doesn't exist, the site hasn't yet been registered with the Internet domain name servers, or the site has been closed down.
  • Port number. If a site URL includes a port number after the domain name, then different ports might have different sites associated with them. Try dropping the port number, or changing it to 80 or 8080, and see if the same or some related site is found.
  • Reference Check. Check to see if the address ever did exist by searching for the url on a search engine, and if it isn't found (i.e. no search engine picked it up, and no other page ever linked to it), then you may have the name misspelled or the original reference was wrong.

Moved page. If the page can't be found but you are sure it did exist, then either the page has been moved somewhere else on the site, moved to another site, or closed down. You can try the following techniques to try and retrieve the data:

  • Site search. If the page moved somewhere else on the site, you can sometimes try visiting the square one up from the missing page to see if it has been moved close by.
  • Web search. You can search on the page name alone from the URL, which might find the page if it is stored on any mirror sites. However, if the page name is common, like "index.html", then too many results will be returned unless you add some unique identifiers to the search.
  • Unique reference. If you know of any unique reference on the page that would not be on any other page, such as a unique title, name, or quotation, you can try searching the web as a phrase to see if anyone else has posted the same material.
  • Related information. If all of the above steps fail, then you are left with the option of related information. You can search on keywords you think would be on the page you were looking for, which will generally return pages with similar types of information, and may also provide the information you were looking for.
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