Human Error Hits Google Search Warning

Feb 1, 2009

On Saturday morning, between 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m. PST, Google search returned a bogus warning on each an every search results. Uses who performed search queries during that period saw the message “This site may harm your computer” for each and every search result. That message is normally displayed when a malicious website appears in the search results. So, what does it mean? Google identified all sites as malicious, during that period!

Google Search

Google Search

What actually happened? According to Google, it was a simple human error that caused the glitch. 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. For this, Google maintain a list of such blacklisted sites through both manual and automated methods. It also works with a nonprofit organization that runs the site to maintain the list and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list. Google periodically gets updates to the URL list and got such an update on Saturday morning. But there was a human error from Google side and the URL of ‘/’ was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and ‘/’ expands to all URLs. And that’s why the warning appeared on all sites.

The glitch detected by on-call staff and the file was quickly fixed. But as the updates are applied in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing at 9:27 a.m. EST and disappeared no later than 10:25 a.m. EST. Marissa Mayer, Vice President, Search Products & User Experience of Google, explained it on an official Google blog post.

2 Responses to “Human Error Hits Google Search Warning”

  1. RogueDeals on 2nd Feb, 09 02:02pm #

    I can’t believe it only took one employee to make google look dumb on a mass scale…. Wonder if he (or she) still has a job. Needless to say, I still love Google and I don’t hold it against them one bit. Human error happens and thats why we are human. If we wanted perfection, we’d all be emotionless robots… and no one wants a Will Smith movie or Reeves to become reality. So, glad to see even a big shot corp. is able to faulter. We are human! :)


  2. Shannon on 3rd Feb, 09 04:02pm #

    This is something on which google have to work upon. It is not just giving excuses but to rectify it to avoid future disturbances. That would prove very unprofessional of Google!

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