Get the Google Cache Age of a Web Page URL

Jun 27, 2014 - 1 Comment

Finding the age of a Google Webcache of any URL

You may know that Google keeps caches of web sites and pages on a somewhat routine basis, storing them in an accessible Google repository of webcaches. These caches can be extremely useful for a wide variety of reasons, but one particularly common usage of them is if a site is slow to load or suffering from temporary downtime, you can usually still access the page or site in question by going to Google’s cached version of the page. This is because that alternate version is stored on Google servers and not on the domains web servers, making the page retrievable regardless of the origin site being up or down. Of course, the big question becomes how relevant that cache is, and that comes down to cache age, since it’s not too useful to look at old cache of a site that is too outdated to be relevant for something like a news site. That’s what we’re going to cover here, quickly finding the Google Web Cache snapshot age of any URL stored on their servers.


This trick works the same on every web browser and within any operating system. That means whether you’re on Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, or Windows, you can use this tip. There’s also no need to bust out a terminal and start querying domains with curl to pull header details, the solution is much simple than that and is done entirely through the web using simple URL modification.

This is somewhat geeky, making it most useful for web workers, web developers, and server admins. But it’s also really useful for readers who are trying to look at a site that is otherwise down due to load or otherwise.

Finding Google Web Cache Age from Any Browser

Use the following URL format:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:URLGOESHERE

Be sure to replace “URLGOESHERE” with the proper web address of the page or site whose cache you want to retrieve and see the time for. For example, to check the Google Webcache age of OSXDaily.com you’d use the following URL:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:osxdaily.com

Once this loads you’ll be able to find the cache age at the very top of the URL. Most people overlook this because it’s in small print, but that’s where you’ll find the date and time of when Google’s caching service last captured the page:

This is Google's cache of http://(DOMAIN)/. It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Jun 24, 2014 07:03:32 GMT. The current page could have changed in the meantime. Learn more
Tip: To quickly find your search term on this page, press Ctrl+F or ⌘-F (Mac) and use the find bar. - See more at: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:DOMAIN

This type of header is shown at the top of this image in the grey box above the typical page, for those who are using this to geek out with it’s typically the first div that appears in the HTML:

Google Cache age shown at the top of the loaded webcache URL

Google helpfully retains caches like this for most URL’s, but some sites either don’t allow it or just aren’t covered. For example, the New York Times and NYTimes.com does not have any cache, which will result in an error page like this:

Google Cache Error Page for NYTimes

Finding Google Cache Age from the Chrome Browser

If you’re using Google Chrome, this task is even easier, because you can simply type the following URL into the address bar to retrieve the cached version:

cache:URL-GOES-HERE

(Note it’s not cache:// but cache: without the dual slashes)

For example, from Chrome you could get the OSXDaily.com cache with this URL structure:

cache:osxdaily.com

That will pull up Google’s web cache version of the page (going to the same webcache.googleusercontent.com URL as the prior example), and this is when finding the cache age is extremely simple, just look at the top to find it, it will say something like:

"This is Google's cache of http://osxdaily.com/. It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Jun 24, 2014 07:03:32 GMT"

Note the date and time following the “snapshot of the page as it appeared on” portion is what you’re looking for, that’s when Googles web cache of the particular URL was captured.

So, the next time you can’t reach a particular web site but want to check it out anyway, Google’s Cache version can be a potential source, just be sure to check the age first so you know if it’s relevant or not. Happy browsing.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Tips & Tricks

One Comment

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  1. AJ says:

    This is a great tool to use for reading smaller sites that go down with large traffic surges so you can still read it – less common nowadays since most web sites can scale better, but back when Digg and Slashdot used to take down sites due to volume searches, it was used frequently. Maybe with a big Reddit surge it would still work that way, but I think web cache and good web hosts have eliminated most of the downtime issues.

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