Now this isn't your usual everyday occurrence...
Heralded Internet super spawn Google today performed the mother of all service cock-ups - if briefly - when it accidently warned customers about the danger of every single site pulled up using its search engine.
Greeting and baffling users for a 55 minute spell between 6:30am and 7:25am PST (2:30pm - 3.25pm GMT) was the message "This site may harm your computer". You what? Well we now have official word:
"What happened? Very simply, human error," explained the company on its official blog. "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. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called StopBadware.org to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list.
We periodically update that list and released one such update to the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here's the human error), the URL of '/' was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and '/' expands to all URLs. Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file. Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.
Not the end of the world people, but it certainly is a wonderful demonstration in this computer dominated, server backed up world of ours that a simple human error can still bring everything crashing down.
Whether this is comforting or terrifying I haven't yet decided...