5 detective skills that will reveal the age of any webpage

Usually, the publication date of an article or web page is displayed on the screen in front of you. But sometimes a page will try to pass itself off as an ageless wonder, which is problematic when you need to know if it’s still relevant. Don’t worry: there are ways to lift the veil of the mystery.

To be clear, finding an exact date is not guaranteed – you may only be able to estimate how old the information is. Often this is good enough.

The easiest: look at the URL

The address of a page is technically “on the screen in front of you”, but easy to miss. Check there first. Unfortunately, these are not always consistent or accurate. A part of Popular scienceOlder articles from have URLs that include the year and month (but not the day) they were published. Our new stories don’t.

Easy: study the XML sitemap

An XML sitemap is simply a list of URLs for a given website, with basic information about each. He’s there to guide search engine bots in their never-ending quest to collect data. To see it, go to the address bar and add / sitemap.xml at the end of the page URL.

If you are lucky it will be well organized, like the one in the White House website. For sites updated more frequently, As Lifehacker, you can get a massive list of last modified dates. In the worst case, it will not work at all and you will get a 404 error, as with PopSci.

Medium: Use the Wayback Machine

Internet archives Return machine is a snapshot repository cataloging billions of pages across the web. Just paste the URL you want to study into the search bar and hit Enter. This will return a timeline showing when the tool captured an image of the page in question. Click on the desired year, then click on one of the highlighted calendar dates to see what it looked like at that time.

For that PopSci story on how to print and scan items with your phone, the first date on the Wayback Machine is March 14, 2017, the day the article first appeared on the web. While this is correct, it is not always the case. The page you are viewing may have been saved some time after posting, or may not have been saved at all.

More difficult: take advantage of Google’s advanced search functions

Sometimes Google results are accompanied by dates. If they don’t, you can force the hand of the search engine. Copy the address of the page you want to know, head to the search bar and type inurl:. Then paste the URL after the colon (no spaces). This will tell Google to only show you results for that specific site.

Then go to the address bar (not the search bar) and add & as_qdr = y25 at the end of the URL therein. This command tells Google to show you results for the past 25 years. To break it down a bit more, “as” means “advanced search”, “qdr” is a shorthand for “query date range” and “y25” means “the last 25 years”. You can change this last bit to use “d” for days, “w” for weeks, or “m” for months, followed by any number you want.

When you hit Enter on this modified URL, Google will display a date with your search result. But like the other options listed here, there is no guarantee how accurate this is. This could be the date of publication, the day of the last modification, or when Google indexed it. PopSciThe story of on the best ways to reheat pizza, for example, is posted on February 7, 2020. This is the day we first posted it, but it was updated on February 5, 2021 .

Another more time-consuming way to determine the first appearance of a page on Google is to use the inurl: order, find Tools under the search bar and click on the At any time scrolling menu. To select Personalized range… and plug in some dates. By searching year by year and constantly narrowing your date range, you should be able to find when a page first went live, but it’s not an efficient process.

The hardest part: digging into the source code

Right click on any web page and you should see an option to view the source code. On Google Chrome, it appears as Show page source. Choose it and you will have a preview behind the curtain. Buried in all of this information, you might be able to find out when the page was created or edited. Use Ctrl + F under Windows or Cmd + F on macOS to open the search function and do your best to find it. Try to find keywords like “date”, “published”, “date published”, “modified”, “date modified” or something similar.

PopSci is clear on when his stories were published and updated, but you can find that date in the source code by searching for “last_updated_date”. Be careful though: there may be dates for other items on the page, such as photos. These may not be the same age as the rest of the content.

Sheer inconsistency and the potential for complications are what earned this strategy its toughest place on our list. If it works well, you can find your answer quickly. If not, well, you’ve got a lot of code to go through.

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