404 error pages put to good use in missing children project

The 404 Not Found page. It’s always a tiny bit frustrating when you land on one of these after mistyping a website address or because the page has been taken down.

However, the Brussels-based Missing Children Europe organization, working with Child Focus, has found a way to make use of these otherwise empty pages with the launch of its NotFound initiative designed to spread the word about missing children.

If a company signs up to be part of the NotFound 404 project, which launched this week, web users who land on one of its deleted web pages will be met with the message, “Page not found, neither is [name of missing person]”. A photo of the missing child, together with some information about that person, is also displayed.

Francis Herbert, secretary-general of Missing Children Europe, said in a release, “The idea of ‌‌integrating missing person messages into 404 pages immediately seemed very interesting to us. We are always looking for new communication channels to distribute missing children messages and increase the chances to bring them home.”

Speaking about the initiative, Child Focus’s Maryse Roland said, “This project will allow us to once again concentrate the attention on children whom we haven’t heard of for many years,” adding, “These children risk to fall into oblivion. The choice of the shown missing persons message on the 404 page will be at random: it could be a recent disappearance, or on the contrary, a child that has been missing for a long time. We already have a few major partners and invite every business or person with a website to join our project. No financial investment is required, just good will.”

To get involved, website owners simply need to register their site and add a couple of lines of code to their customized 404 page.

“The 404-page is a cornerstone of the Internet culture,” said Digital Conceptor’s Laurent Dochy, one of the creators of the project. “An increasing number of website designs have customized error pages that limit frustrations for the user. With the NotFound project we are, however, taking this one step further by giving these pages a reason to exist.”

Up to now, around 500 companies have joined the initiative, though organizers are hoping for many more to sign up once word gets around.

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