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You’ll Never Look at a 404 Error Page the Same Way Again After This

Motherboard’s error horse Filly joins a list of imaginary 404 Error pages in a new online gallery.

A 404 error is a destination we never want to reach. It's an internet dead end, a webpage road block, perhaps an error message from a broken link that never ascended to Web 2.0.

For many creative types, though, a 404 error is an opportunity. It's still a webpage, right, may as well use it for something? If you've ever been lucky enough to chance upon a broken link on Motherboard, you would have arrived at our own magnificent offering of a 404 error: Filly. For Motherboard, Filly represents not a dead end but a new beginning.


"Every time I feel like I cannot continue on in this sick sad world I look at that majestic beast and its inexhaustible canter into the future and everything becomes sane again," Motherboard Editor-in-Chief Derek Mead said, describing Filly to me over Slack this week.

So towards the end of this truly bizarre year, Filly, and Motherboard, is proud to be part of a new curatorial project that applauds the true meaning of a 404 error. The, a collaboration between Matthew Britton, an artist and lecturer and the University of South Wales, and friend Brett O'Connor, celebrates the potential of the 404's non-space on the internet, featuring a collection of imaginative 404s created by artists.

"I like to think of ways of subverting these every day online things that we take for granted, the mundane and the overlooked," Britton told Motherboard over email.

Previously, Britton has turned out of office auto replies into art distributors, in the form of email addresses assigned to business cards. He's also taken a single Google Doc and invited the internet to come and make art with him.

"These collaborative tools can be thought about in novel and more interesting ways," he said. "So with I really wanted these spaces of disappointment on the internet—these spaces where content couldn't be found—to be filled with creative potential and to imagine how the overlooked could be interpreted by creative minds."


Britton teamed up with Brett O'Connor and gave artists a week to respond to the concept of designing a 404 error page. The artist replies are now part of the ongoing archive at the 404error gallery online and there's 17 ace designs so far.

"It began as a kind of cool idea for an online show," said Britton. "It was more of a statement that no space on the web should be overlooked for its creative potential. I like to put ideas for projects out into the world and see how the world responds, see if it can engage an audience and make them think differently about their everyday routine."

Naturally, we had to ask Britton, obviously a respected custodian of 404 error pages, what he thought of our Filly. "I do love the 404 horse, I could watch he/she all day. But I've never been overly fond of horses, so that should say something. It's more than a horse for me."

She's more than a horse to all of us, Matthew.

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