Even Google Has Website Malfunction

Just when you thought your website was the only one flaking out, and just when you wanted to strangle your website developer (be kind to us! ;) ), Google went and had its own website malfunction. If you were searching last Saturday morning, January 31st, 2009, then you most likely saw these blaring words in red: "This site may harm your computer"

I know I did, and of course I thought I had clicked on a malicious website, even though I was doing a search for a very legit topic (as opposed to searches for celebrities that can very likely lead to fake websites that crash your browser). But, the problem was simple, and caused by human error at Google. In their words:

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. Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.

Interesting isn't it, that one tiny character, the / , caused a world-wide error on a Saturday morning. So just when you think you're the only one to make a mistake, it can happen to anyone.


Subscribe to RSS - SEO