404 : File Not Found

History of 404 Error Message

A "404 file not found" message would be the last thing you would want to see after clicking on a link. And if it is for some info you have been searching all day long, pulling hairs is a ritual :)

But did you know the 404 page has an interesting history?

Well it all started with a group of CERN (Switzerland) scientists who began working on something which would revolutionize the future: the World Wide Web(WWW), or simply 'the Web'. Their aim was to create a database infrastructure that allowed access to data (text, picture, video etc) in various formats through a network.

And in an office on the fourth floor (room 404), they placed the Internet's central database: any request for a file was routed to that office, where two or three people would manually locate the requested files and transfer them, over the network, to the person who made that request.

Although restricted to CERN's internal network initially, it was soon extended for outside requests as well. And as the database grew, so did the number of requests and also the number of requests that couldn't be fulfilled - the most common problem being wrong file name requests.

Soon these faulty requests were answered with a standard message:

Room 404: file not found

  • We cannot find the file or page you were looking for. Please check the address you entered.

Later, the manual processes were automated and people could directly query the database but the error message remained the same "404: file not found" The room number remained in the error codes of the official release of HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) and is still displayed when a browser makes a faulty request to a Web server.

And it's still happening - right now. :)