From NY TIMES-THE LEDE
Google has become part of so many people’s lives on this planet, like a dependable appendage — until suddenly it malfunctions.
Such was the case, at least temporarily, this morning from 9:30 a.m. Eastern time to about 10:25 a.m., when all searches returned results with the same warning message: “This site may harm your computer.” The link then referred users to StopBadware.org, the company that works with Google to flag sites with potentially dangerous software. Even if people chose to click on the link, disregarding the warning, the site would not pull up.
Users around the world complained about the interruption, affecting more than just early risers in the United States. In Britain, the Guardian said that “Google placed the Internet on a blacklist today,” and later added:
Apart from lost advertising revenue – which one expert estimated at $2-3m (£1.4-2m) – the incident is embarrassing for the world’s most popular search engine, known for its reliability.
Google needed two posts on its own blog to clarify that the fault was its own.
“What happened? Very simply, human error,” Google explained in its blog.
Google said that the nonprofit company StopBadware.org, which determines criteria for sites installed with harmful software, helps develop a list of sites. Google periodically updates that list. In a subsequent blog, Google clarified that it was the one who put an unintended forward slash in the URL of one such site, causing all sites to be flagged harmful.
The Google team, according to the company, figured it out within 40 minutes.
But while order was restored to the searching world, there was some momentary tension with StopBadware.org StopBadware.org which claimed on its blog that Google’s statement (the original one) was “inaccurate.”
Google has posted an update on their official blog that erroneously states that Google gets its list of URLs from us. This is not accurate. Google generates its own list of badware URLs, and no data that we generate is supposed to affect the warnings in Google’s search listings. We are attempting to work with Google to clarify their statement.
Google updated the blog.
“We have a good ongoing relationship with StopBadware.org,” Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker said in a telephone interview. “In our post, we tried to clarify our role in this error.”
The company is not known for glitches. But Saturday’s is not the first in the last 10 days. Recently, Google Maps had a software glitch that sent drivers trying to get to different points within Staten Island, specifically zip codes 10302 and 10308, on a 176-mile detour to Schenectady instead. The Staten Island Advance ran a story on the road trip directions as “Strudel in Google’s noodle.”
The glitches in Google Maps and Google search were unrelated Mr. Stricker said. As for Saturday’s search engine failure, he added:
“Our web search is extremely reliable and that’s why when an interruption occurs, even if it’s for a matter of minutes — for Saturday morning, people notice it.”