Related link: http://simonstl.com/asdf/
I’d like to pause for a moment in tribute to a key innovation which made the Web possible, the 404 Not Found error.
Prior to the Web, there had been all kinds of adventures in hypertext, from Ted Nelson’s transclusions to path-based approaches to scripting to HyTime to my own trivial keyword-based work in HyperCard. While hypertext was really cool and really great stuff, it wasn’t going anywhere, in large part because the systems for building it were pretty onerous and frequently enormous. The desire (and sometimes obsession) to control the links made for some really thorny problems that grew rapidly with the number of documents and links.
The Web dropped all that pretense. Links were one-way, they weren’t centralized, and best of all, they could break. Make a bad link? The worst thing you’d get was an error message. Sure, users get frustrated by these things, but over time they’ve largely learned to adapt (or use archives if “it used to be there”).
By doing less, the Web did enormously more.
Anyone else appreciate the 404?