For years, Google Search results have offered more than just a title, description, and link to the page. In addition, there has been a link under the result for the cached page. This link allowed you to view a website even if its server wasn't working correctly. Now, however, that option has been removed from Google Search results and the cache itself will soon be deprecated entirely.
What is a cached webpage?
A cached webpage is a version of a web page that is stored on a web server, local server, or on the user's computer. When a user visits a website, their browser may download a copy of the site's pages and their elements such as images, scripts, and stylesheets. This process is known as caching. The purpose of caching is to make subsequent visits to the same site faster and more efficient by loading the site from the local cache instead of downloading the same content again from the server.
The cached version of a webpage can be served to the user when the live page is unavailable or when the user's internet connection is slow or offline. It can also help reduce the load on the web server and save bandwidth. However, because a cached page is a snapshot of a webpage at a particular time, it may not reflect the most recent content or updates made on the live page. Therefore, users may need to clear their cache or refresh the page to see the most up-to-date content.
Why Google cached webpages
Google cached webpages as part of its search engine functionality. When Google's bots crawled the web, they would create a snapshot of each webpage they visited and store it in Google's cache. This process allowed Google to have a version of the webpage readily available for users to view, even if the actual webpage is temporarily inaccessible or has been removed. By caching webpages, Google could provide users with uninterrupted access to information and a better browsing experience.
Google created this feature early on its its existence when the web was a far less mature and more volatile place. Servers were not as robust as they are today and websites would regularly shut down. This could be because of technical issues, a sudden rise in popularity that overloaded hardware, or even a DDoS attack against the server. Without services like CloudFlare, a simple situation could shut down a site. Having a cache of the site gave Google users a backup in this case.
Shutting down the cache
Today, the web has changed. It's a far more stable place. Services like Azure allow you to scale up your website instantly if you need more capacity. CloudFlare can help you mitigate a DDoS attack. And the servers we use even for shared hosting are far more capable than they were before. Because of that, Google has confirmed that cached pages are no longer available in Search results and soon the cache itself will become unavailable to users.
Google has encouraged users to try out the Wayback Machine by the Internet Archive. This project has been around nearly as long as the web itself and regularly caches pages all over the internet. But, it is not the only web cache available, as Bing still offers cached pages in its search results. But, the loss of another web archive is a potential loss to the web itself. Perhaps Google can donate its cache to the Internet Archive to improve its cache. It's unlikely, but we'll see.