This Site May Harm Your Computer


You want to know why I continue my love for Google? Because of situations like today. Earlier today Goggle search results were pretty much trashed… All of them. Every site was flagged by Google and so after each search result there was also a warning.

‘This site may harm your computer”

By the time I heard about it, I got to try it out a couple of times, but then a refresh showed that the fix had been rolled out already. Naturally I did a quick search for my name and found that my site also may harm your computer. I laughed it off and headed to the Official Google Blog to see if they had posted anything about the incident. Nothing at the time, but they did post a message about the issue later today. Here’s a snip of my favorite part…

What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search results with the message “This site may harm your computer” if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list.

We periodically update that list and released one such update to the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here’s the human error), the URL of ‘/’ was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and ‘/’ expands to all URLs. Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file.

I love Google because they made the error public. They had no reservations to even put the detail of the problem out there for all to see. It’s a quality that many individuals and even more corporations lack. Not that we should always throw ourselves under the bus, but we should be willing to open the door a little more to others. Even Google, the internet superpower, is comprised of imperfect humans and I enjoyed seeing that they are willing admit that.

… Wow, how is it that Google all but breaks the internet and I respond with a love note… The Paradox of Google