You might have slept through it, but Google had a massive malware mix up Saturday morning, leading to questions about whether one company has inordinate influence over web life.
From about 9:30 a.m. EST to 10:25 a.m., Google searches warned that every site it indexed contained malware that could "harm your computer." Even trusted sites such as CSMonitor.com, the NYTimes, and Google's own pages received this troubling alert – only YouTube seems to have escaped the glitch. Users brave enough to click on the search results anyway received a second safety warning: "Visiting this web site may harm your computer! ... Return to the previous page and pick another result." But there were no other results; Google labels entire web as "malware."
The problem was "human error," explains the company. Someone accidentally updated Google's logs to flag every site with a "/" in its URL. Unfortunately for Google, every site has a "/" in its URL.
The snafu confused users and infuriated web businesses, which saw a big dive in hits during the hour-long mix up. Google corrected the records, but concerns remain. Has Google grown too big?
In an editorial called "Google’s flub: Do we have a Web monoculture too?" ZDNet editor in chief Larry Dignan writes that: "to many folks Google is the Window to the Internet. If folks can’t Google people are simply lost. That fact alone probably qualifies Google as a Web monoculture although it may be a touch premature to make a definitive call. However, Google touches everything and frankly that’s a bit worrisome."