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Google wants to kill 404 errors, replacing them with offline web pages

Speaking at the O’Reilly Velocity conference, Google software engineer Alex Russell has detailed Google's new Service Workers browser standard.
September 19, 2014
Google 404

We all experience those annoying 404 page errors once in a while, and it seems that Google shares our frustrations. The tech giant wants to put an end to this and similar errors, and help keep websites interactive even when we lose our internet connections.

Google’s new browser standard named “Service Workers” aims to do away with the error by storing web page information locally, a sort of cache if you will, which is used to save pages that you have already visited. Therefore, even if you temporarily lose your internet connection you will still be able to look at old content rather than receiving the dreaded error message.

“We want to load something instead of nothing.” – Alex Russell, Google software engineer

The other upside of this design is that pages you regularly visit could load much faster, as a lot of the page’s content, such as large banner images and layouts, can be loaded up locally rather than downloaded from the site each time. Pages can simply be updated with new content as it arrives, saving on your data plan too. The video below explains the technical side of things better than I could, or you can read about it here.

The flip side of this design is that your browser will probably end up a bit bulkier, and of course you will have to make room in your phone’s memory for all that offline data. Web browsers implementing this technology will probably eat up more resources too, as some extra processing power will probably be required to piece offline data together with newly acquired online updates.

There’s still more work to be done on Service Workers before Google works it into a finished browser, but the company already has plans to integrate the standard into its Chrome browser by the end of the year. Firefox is also said to be implementing the idea.