Google and the “/” Typo

Jan. 31, 2009

This could happen to me — I can see this now. I make a typo in a database and accidentally write “/” — and suddenly everything goes wrong on my website.

But I’m not Google. They did this around 6:30 am PST today and typed “/” in a database that identifies malware. And around the world, every search for about an hour on Google identified everything as malware, since every address has a / in it.

Twitter buzzed, but wasn’t too helpful. Lots of things were hypothesized. TechCrunch beat all the press to the table out of their Belgian office. Their posts were helpful, not as much from their stories, but from their comments from the whole world pinging in as to the fact that this was happening around the world.

Users were confused in all timezones. Was this my computer? Should I reboot? Should I complain to my ISP?

Google finally ‘fessed up and said no, it wasn’t stopbadware.org’s database. That site was crunched as many users went there for information, so was of no help. No, someone at Google put a “/” in their database. Their quality control folks were able to identify this and fix it in about an hour total. Blog: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/this-site-may-harm-your-computer-on.html.

An hour? In Google Internet time, that’s a big outage for a small glitch.

I had another temporal Google glitch last week. The dates in my Google News search on the left hand side were from the 1800’s — really. When I clicked them, it brought up newspaper articles culled from archives and digitized from the 1800’s. After a few searches, that feature went away. (It was cool, and I’m not sure of why this accident drifted in.)

Glad to hear that Google wasn’t hacked. Disturbed at the ripples. Amused at the temporal impact.

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