Google, Human errors and Monoculture

Between 6:30 am PST and 7:20 am PST on 31st Jan, all searches on Google resulted in only websites that may harm your computer. The version 2.0 of the official statement attributed this error to a "human failure".

According to Google, they get a list from Google maintains this list through manual and automated process. Somewhere along the line, "/" was checked in as a value in this file. This makes me wonder what kind of manipulation is done manually to get "/" into the file. Is someone opening up the file and verifying it? Highly unlikely as there are around 196382 sites reported as badware sites according to websites. It is not possible for someone to verify this list manually. It is likely that someone opened up the file for fun and accidentally saved while exiting out!

All said and done, the issue was fixed in 40 minutes! Be it a rollback of the bad file or release of an updated file, it is great feat for an organization to undo the damage in 40 minutes. Although it raised a lot of alarms worldwide, Google should be commended for turning this around in the shortest possible time.

Finally, all this has raised concerns about Google monoculture. We are dependent on a single software provider for our searches. Although there are different alternatives (Yahoo Search,, Cuil) available, I am not going to switch in the near future. I'm happy with Google. I forgive Google for a 40 minutes scare (and hopes they do not repeat it!).


  1. Forgiving is the greatest act person can perform and you seem to be doing good on it. Anyway nice write-up!!!


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