The Ingenious Reason behind the Error 404 Message

Beginning in the 1980s, "404: Not Found"

Those who frequently use the internet have encountered the annoying error 404 notice. When I initially saw it, I believed it to be the internet's way of informing me I was a clumsy child who needed to complete my schoolwork in accordance with my parents' instructions. I've learned as I've gotten older that error 404 is genuinely a mistake, and that it allegedly dates back to the early days of the internet. An error 404 message has a beginning and a history, just like anything else.

404 Not Found

When someone unintentionally hits a page that doesn't exist, they get this warning. It's the internet's way of telling you that you've come to a standstill. Despite being the most miserable page for the majority of users, it never stopped being extremely popular due to its consistent reach.

404 is a HTTP status code. HTTP, meaning Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

Status codes are issued by a server in response to a client’s request made to the server. It includes codes from IETF Request for Comments (RFCs), other specifications, and some additional codes used in some common applications of the HTTP. The first digit of the status code specifies one of five standard classes of responses. The message phrases shown are typical, but any human-readable alternative may be provided. Unless otherwise stated, the status code is part of the HTTP/1.1 standard (RFC 7231).


Status codes, to put it simply, are codes that facilitate an individual's online request. The five status code classes—1xx, 2xx, 3xx, 4xx, and 5xx—have various replies. As an illustration, 2xx successfully indicates that the request was successfully received, comprehended, and approved. The code for a typical webpage is 200 OK, but we can't see it because the request was successful and the page one that was requested was delivered. Evidently, status codes, like 404 and 500, are only noticeable when mistakes occur.

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The history of HTTP status codes and “404"

Scientists at CERN in Switzerland worked on creating the World Wide Web and its components between 1981 and 1992. They collaborated in an office on the fourth floor of the structure to establish a database foundation that offered data in many formats.

The main database for the World Wide Web was located on the same fourth level in a space designated "404." They had to manually allocate files and move them across the web in order to respond to various requests. However, they were unable to respond to all requests made via the Internet since many users supplied incorrect file names rather than the correct data.

The scientists put their theories into practice by creating a notification for those who filed requests with the wrong file names because the same issues continued happening. This is the message:

Room 404: file not found.

The usage of HTTP status codes, which were already devised in 1990 with the help of the World Wide Web's inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, and a co-developer, Robert Cailliau, was implemented by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1992 as a result of the message's high level of popularity at the time.

The evolution of error 404

The internet developed along with technology. The web's manual procedures were mechanized, but the 404 Not Found error status code retained its prominence. People started using the message to express their disapproval of jokes that weren't amusing because it became so well known. They also referred to missing items, such as stolen commodities, keys, and even inmates who had escaped from prison, as having the number 404.

Due to its popularity, many people started enterprises where they sold shirts and other 404 goods in order to generate sales. It was utilized in all aspects of digital life, including books, comics, and memes. According to Eyerys, it's comparable to claiming that the announcement of an unexpected problem, or 404, is a global manner of expressing emotionally pure disappointment. It serves as a reminder that humans are responsible for developing and populating technology, particularly the web.

Nobody ever forgets that the 404 error message was once a dead-end page on the internet, whether it is used ironically or seriously now. Last but not least, a particular room 404 served as the inspiration for the use of the 404 error message.

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