How the 404 Error Created the World Wide Web

In a way, the 404 did for hypertext what the zero did for math: It was obvious, but formalizing it and creating a notation revolutionized the rest of the system.

For all its greatness, this new approach also came with some problems, chiefly link rot. Over time, pages move, websites replace their content, and entire sites go offline, stranding the links that point to them. Studies have found that at least 50 percent of published links go stale within five to ten years. At least websites have made some creative attempts to entertain us with custom 404 error pages.

Source: How the 404 Error Created the World Wide Web

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