For a time today (Jan 31, 2009) it appeared as if the entire internet was malware. At least, that is what you would have seen had you tried to use Google to look for a site. The error was not intentional and was for a worthy cause: to prevent people from visiting bad sites. Unfortunately, because of a very simple human error, the results were quite unexpected.
Google partners with StopBadware.org to help with blocking malware. They use a list of sites to determine, along with other human factors, which sites are good and which are not. Simply put, when Google got the list today, someone made a simple mistake, using a url of ‘/’ as a value on the list. A ‘/’ expands all sites. Thus, everything was bad, until the error was corrected.
A simple little mistake. BUT..and this is a big, huge but, it does point out how much we rely on Google and that one small mistake on their part can have much bigger implications. Now, lets not blow this out of proportion: it was, after all, just a search. But, again, there is a larger issue here. Anyone who relies one particular ‘cloud’ service for more critical things like email, spreadsheets, documents, etc., a problem such at this that could potentially block access could have far more reaching implications and affect business. For me, it is one more reason to rely on my desktop applications for critical things and leave the ‘cloud’ to lesser things like web search.