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So, we've all seen the web page message "Error 404: Not found."

Apparently, this has now been extended to non-http contexts, and 404 now means a stupid person. Is this true?

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Uh, I think you totally missed the point of my edit. –  Marthaª May 10 '11 at 14:07
I think so too. And I think maybe I missed your point just because you might have missed mine's :):) –  Thursagen May 14 '11 at 2:39
Dont forget Error 418, I'm a teapot –  whoabackoff Jul 13 '11 at 6:43
@Thursagen: Martha's edit was a great improvement, you should revert to that version and make note of how it makes this a much more appropriate question. –  Caleb Aug 3 '11 at 9:34
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

There are, currently, 37 entries at urban dictionary for term 404. They are quite interesting and more than a few of them mention this sense of stupid, crazy, clueless, useless.

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HTTP Error 404 is a special computer code that indicates that the file you were looking for couldn't be found—in other words, the file's not there as far as the computer is concerned. There could be many reasons why: the file could have been deleted, the link you clicked might have been typoed, or one of a myriad of other reasons.

It generally does not have anything to do with the user—it's just a code that computers use, and by tradition, this code is also displayed to users so they know what happened.

However, according to a BBC article, the term 404 by itself means clueless. This being the BBC, I have no doubt as to the reliability, but it does seem to be local to the UK. This slang would be derived from the computer error, and not the other way around, i.e. the computer is not calling you stupid.

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I've heard "404" used in that same way: "Dude, that guy is 404." I see that the massively descriptivist Urban Dictionary has that meaning listed. –  Neil Fein May 9 '11 at 5:24
It is a small step from not there to not all there –  Henry May 9 '11 at 7:25
Similar to the AE use of "the 411" to mean information - 411 is the phone number for directory enquiries - called "information" in the USA –  mgb May 9 '11 at 16:30
I'm sorry, but the answer to your question can not be found. And I'm amazed nobody else has posted a link to this site‌​. –  Neil Fein May 10 '11 at 4:03
The link is dictionary.reference.com/browse/404 –  Thursagen May 10 '11 at 4:13
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According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the code 404 means:

404 Not Found

The server has not found anything matching the Request-URI. No indication is given of whether the condition is temporary or permanent. The 410 (Gone) status code SHOULD be used if the server knows, through some internally configurable mechanism, that an old resource is permanently unavailable and has no forwarding address. This status code is commonly used when the server does not wish to reveal exactly why the request has been refused, or when no other response is applicable

For the curious, the above was lifted from RFC2616 -- Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1. This RFC is the standard that browsers and web servers use to communicate.

There are many status codes that a web server can return, but this one seems to be the most common, but there are attempts to reduce this. Modern web servers allow web site designers to capture a 404 status and display something more understandable that the code itself, for example see the 404 page for this stackexchange.

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