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I'm hesitant to call this a bug and do so only because it was particularly annoying. If the powers that be want to retag as feature request, I'm fine with that.

This morning, I went to update an answer and got the "SO offline for maintenance" page. So I thought, okay, I spend too much time here anyway, I'll come back in an hour. When I came back and hit F5 for page reload, it was still offline. Same deal two hours later.

Hmm, I thought, then I noticed the URL in the address bar was a funny one and, upon going to the "real" SO front page, it was back.

In other words, I'd just been reloading the error page. For all I know, SO had only been down for a couple of minutes.

Now that error page has a link on it to retry but it seems to me that's less intuitive than just about every other site I use where F5 will reload the page you asked for (assuming the error's been fixed), not the error page you got.

Now that I know this, I won't be using F5 again in a hurry but it may catch out others, so I'm raising an issue.

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+1 - I realised this a long time ago, but never thought to mention it. It's kinda funny because there's a return URL in the address bar, which makes you think it should auto-return you on F5 – Mark Henderson Jan 27 '11 at 4:34
+1 I did this too today for about 5 hours. I never click on links if I don't need too. – Benny Jan 27 '11 at 9:10
@Benny. Good, I don't feel so stupid now. Well, actually, I do but at least I'm not alone :-) – paxdiablo Jan 27 '11 at 9:15
Well that makes the 2 of us :) – Benny Jan 27 '11 at 9:16
I swear it used to retry if you refreshed, but maybe I imagined it – Michael Mrozek Jan 28 '11 at 16:34
For once, Michael Mrozek and I seem to be in agreement. But I suspect he was just thinking of the retry link; I know I was. – Pops Jan 28 '11 at 16:35
I see the question was tagged status-completed. What was changed in the “SO is offline” page? – tiago2014 Feb 28 '11 at 5:16
@tiagoinu: see the answer below by Geoff Dalgas. – paxdiablo Feb 28 '11 at 6:06
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I have added a automatic retry after 5 minutes to the offline pages which performs the following:

    var returnUrl = getParameterByName('return');
    $().ready(function () {
        setTimeout('autoRefresh()', 300000);

    function autoRefresh() {
        document.location.href = returnUrl;

    function getParameterByName(name) {
        name = name.replace(/[\[]/, "\\\[").replace(/[\]]/, "\\\]");
        var regexS = "[\\?&]" + name + "=([^&#]*)";
        var regex = new RegExp(regexS);
        var results = regex.exec(window.location.href);
        if (results == null)
            return "";
            return decodeURIComponent(results[1].replace(/\+/g, " "));
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The offline page now works with F5. We now show the error page in a bit simpler fashion, with the original URL intact and a 100% height/width <iframe> that contains the per-site error page.

The page will still automatically retry every 5 minutes. Also, every graduated (themed) site has an offline page that matches.

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great work! – davidsleeps Jun 30 '11 at 1:12
I noticed this and it is very classy. One side effect is that the "meta is offline" page includes a link to the blog and the link loads in an <iframe> thus not changing the URL. In that case F5 refreshes the wrong page and bookmarking doesn't bookmark the blog. Should I file a bug? – Rick Sladkey Jul 7 '11 at 2:59
@Rick - definitely file a bug, it'll go on my todo, just comment here linking please. – Nick Craver Jul 7 '11 at 4:02

Maybe this could be accomplished by having the static offline page attempting an Ajax request to determine if SO is back up, and re-directing if so.

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