Information Systems
College of Business Administration
University of Missouri - St. Louis

The 404 Error

When you come across a page and receive a 404 error have you ever wondered what the numbers stand for? The answer to that question is probably no, but if you have ever pondered it was probably nothing more than a quick thought that bounced back out of your head right after you realize the page you are trying to access is not found (hence the 404 error code). This obviously has something to do with the number 404, but what could these numbers mean and why were they chosen? To dig deeper into why this number was chosen some obvious Google searching was in the near future. After some quick Google searches it looked like some things were coming to light. As it turns out it has a lot to do with the beginning of the internet revolution in sunny Silicon Valley. Back in the 80's there was a man by the name of Tim Berners-Lee that had to commute to work on a temporary highway that was under construction constantly to maintain traffic that was diverted because of another highways construction. His usual commute was on the 101 from Redwood City into Palo Alto, but since the 101 was under construction a temporary highway that was labeled 404 was used to compensate the flow of traffic since part of the 101 was closed. This temporary 404 highway was a nightmare to the entire community, because the ramps to get on or off the 404 were constantly changing which lead to people not being able to find the ramps. Since Tim Berners-Lee had to deal with this on a constant basis it infuriated him to the point that when they were deciding FTP status codes he immediately decided that if a page is not found it had to be a 404 error.

Moral: Just because something is in written word does not mean it is a legitimate source. A great example of something written that is a complete shame is the above fable. This was completely fabricated in my mind. I did do some searching around and found that Tim Berners-Lee did have something to do with creating the 404 error code, but it was based on actual reasoning and not road rage due to construction.

These stories are adapted examples written in my class, IS 6840 (formerly MSIS 488).
© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.

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© Vicki L. Sauter. All rights Reserved.