You may have come across a little graphic like this as you wander around the web. It’s intended to represent what a 404 error is.
A 404 is a HTTP response from the server. It means that the visitor can communicate with the server but the server can’t find the page that the visitor asked for.
Try it for yourself. If you type in some gobbledygook after your own site’s address – such as https://photographworks.wordpress.com/eghofbasfwegr – it will bring up an error page.
WordPress.com error pages contain this information:
Oops! That page can’t be found.
It looks like nothing was found at this location. Maybe try one of the links below or a search?
and then they have a list of recent posts, archives, and categories, plus a search box.
Googling for ‘creative 404 pages’ brings up lots of examples, such as these pages.
By the way, I made the little graphic 404 at the top of this page in about a minute in Photoshop.
Other HTTP Codes
One code you are not likely to actually see, but which is being sent all the time is the 200 code. It means everything went OK – the view asked for a page and the view got the page. Success!
Codes you might find a use for on your own self-hosted site, are 301 and 302. These are respectively, permanent and temporary redirects. They mean that when a visitor asks for a page, they are redirected by the server to another page. That can be for nefarious reasons (a redirect to some spammy site) or perfectly legitimate – such as when you change the page where the information is located or move to a new site and want to take the visitors with you.
If you are thinking of moving away from WordPress.com, then the team at WordPress will help you redirect your site. The information is here on this WordPress support page.
Finally, the 500 codes (500, 501, 502, 503) are the worrying ones if you run a website. It means that request to visit the server could not be fulfilled.
That could be because the site is broken internally, or it could be because the site has had so many visitors all at the same time, that it is unable to keep up and support all the requests.
Can you imagine how many requests there are of the WordPress.com’s servers at any one moment, day and night?
Think of all the WordPress.com sites and all the pages WordPress’s servers have to serve up so that you can read this and I can read your latest post. Amazing!