By Brian Hawks

Browser caching has remained one of the most common culprits of rapidly changing web application issues since its creation, and clearing your browser’s cache has been a mainstay remedy.  To better explain why browser caching can become such a headache, it would be beneficial to describe what the process of storing something in a browser’s cache actually is and why it is necessary.

The browser cache was created to assist developers fulfill one of the greatest struggles of web development: speed of use.  Transmitting the large files needed for a webpage across an internet connection consumes a great deal of resources, and the size of these files continues to grow and grow as the demand for more robust sites continues to rise.  However, it turns out that many of the files that are transmitted between page reloads tend to be very repetitive.

Your browser’s cache is a special location designed to store these repetitive bits and files in your computer’s memory so that the information doesn’t need to be transmitted on each page load and can instead be retrieved from your much faster local file system.  few good examples of files that would be cached are icons, images, and fonts that are commonly used on all of the application’s pages.

Now that the cache has been explained, the downside of the powerful feature becomes evident.  Whenever a file that has been issued to be stored in the browser cache is changed by a developer or service, that file no longer matches the one that is located in your browser’s cache.  This creates a dichotomy that needs to be resolved.

Occasionally, the file in question can be triggered to invalidate the cached file when it is attempted to be retrieved, but that is not always the case.  The solution to this problem is just a few clicks away, by clearing your browser’s cache and forcing it to receive and store the newly updated file.

The last thing I will mention about cache clearing is that, unfortunately, each browser has a different way of performing the task.  Links to clear the cache for a few of the most common browsers are located here:

Hopefully the mystery has been taken out of browser caching for you now, and the next time something looks strange with your web application, the fix will be just a few clicks away!