So, you have been on the internet and come across pages that for some reason no longer exist and you are presented with this three digit error code: 404, with the added text “Not Found”:

Screenshot from the web

The code simply means just that, the page requested cannot be found on the server that is supposed to serve that page or file to your web browser. There are a few of these codes and you can find a list of them here. But where and what is the origin of this particular error code?

The father of internet

We have to go back to the father of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee. Tim Berners-Lee worked at CERN in Switzerland and was the person who invented what is today the web, the internet.

It’s been said that 404 was named after a room at CERN where the original web servers were located. However, someone who have been there said the following:

Having visited CERN myself, I can tell you that Room 404 is not on the fourth floor – the CERN office numbering system doesn’t work like that – the first digit usually refers to the building number (ie. building 4), and the second two to the office number. But, strangely, there is no room “04” in building “4”, the offices start at “410” and work upwards – don’t ask me why. Sorry to disappoint you all, but there is no Room 404 in CERN – it simply doesn’t exist, and certainly hasn’t been preserved as “the place where the web began”. In fact, there is a display about this, including a model of the first NeXT server, but the whole “Room 404” thing is just a myth.

Not Found or Gone?

Now, there is a different error code, “410 Gone“, which means the requested resource is no longer available at the server and no forwarding address is known. This is interesting and makes it very difficult to know if this is a myth or not.

As the room 404 doesn’t seem to exist, but there is a room 410, does this mean that the room that couldn’t be found is now gone? This seem to just increase the mystery instead of clarify it 🙂