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web and internet

Do you know the history of 404?

Often when you surf to certain website that is misspell, incomplete you may see server 404 error. You know the meaning of that screen but do you know why the number 404 is chose? Why not 303?505? Here is the story.


Once upon a time, when the WWW (world wide web) is still not a standard for the internet protocol today,i mean when it was still under the spell of of bare Unix shells and Gopher, a group of young scientists in CERN Switzerland started to work on the WWW. The aim of the project is to create a database infrastructure that offered open access to data in various formats: multi-media. Once completed the WWW would combine text and pictures and present it as one document, which also allow linking to other documents or the term is hypertext.

This young group of scientists use the physical lay-out of CERN’s network and buildings as a metaphor for the ‘real world’ they situated different functions of the protocol in different offices within CERN. They placed the World Wide Web’s central database in an office on the fourth floor, on room 404 (that’s it). Any request for a file was routed to that office.

The requests grew, the database became bigger until a number of requests that could not be full filled. usually because the person who requested a file typed in the wrong name for that file. Soon these faulty requests were answered with a standard message: ‘Room 404: file not found’.

The messageID’s for error messages remained linked to the physical location the process took place: ‘404: file not found’ until the official release of HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) when a browser makes a faulty request to a Web server. The memory for those young scientists that worked day and night, the room 404 should remain as a special place on the web. in fact the room is really a landmark of a beginning of the web, where the revolution of today’s IT was shaped.

That’s how the 404 came from. Now you may all go to sleep.

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