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Google's 40 Minutes When the Earth Stood Still

Google caused the Internet world to stand still on Saturday 6:30 AM PST, January 31, 2009 for a whole 40 minutes! The problem affected internet pages across the entire planet, as engineers frantically tried to fix it.

If one was to conduct a Google search, the warning message "This Site May Harm Your Computer" appeared underneath each search and was pervasive. leaving hundreds of millions of surfers stranded in cyberspace.

Initially, the warning made searchers fear that the entire Internet was infected - because doesn't Google actually control the entire Internet!  (Up for conjecture, I know!) But once we all came to our senses the collective zeitgeist settled on Google's security messaging experiencing a major melt down!.


In tandem with this mayhem, Twitter went abuzz alerting the
twitterati with a flood of comments and TwitterTwitterquestions accompanied
by the hashtag #googmayharm. As the micro-bloggers fired off moment-to-moment and play-by-play updates, 1000s of tweets flooded the system! One blogger said the glitch showed the dangers of having the majority of internet users in the world relying on the Google “monoculture” for searches. One Twitterer, BradBrownDotCom, joked: "The Google outage frightened me like a schoolgirl, until I remembered an old technology called 'Yahoo'."

 

 

 

But no sooner did Google fix the malfunctioning "This Site May Harm Your Computer" search problem, there were new reports of another problem with Google's service; namely GMail. It appears that Gmail was sending legitimate emails into everyone's Spam folders and also showing the following warning message:

Gmail Spam Problem - January 31, 2009Gmail Spam Problem - January 31, 2009

Warning: This message may not be from whom it claims to be. Beware of following any links in it or of providing the sender with any personal information.


The message has a right red background, so you're not likely to miss it. Best check your Gmail spam account for Non-spam mail.

Liability for Google?

There have been a number of comments on this story asking if this will damage Google's reputation. Given their generally unshakable reliability, it's hard to imagine that these two incidents won't have some detrimental effect on people's confidence in Google's dominance in the search world. Particularly, considering the amount of business that was lost by companies that experienced a marked slow down in visitor traffic to their websites. 

Was 40 minutes enough to make the Internet world stand still? Your thoughts?

The official Google explanation came in just as I was completing this article. Interesting to note that Google is calling this a "human error" and not due to their "algorithms."  Wait a minute...I thought Google was all about the Algos? Perhaps, looking for a scapegoat?  Time will tell.  In any event,  props to Google for responding so quickly, particularly over the weekend. 

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Ron Callari
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