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Search Glitches Highlight Chinks In Google’s Armor

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imageThis week has shown that for all its engineering might, Google (NSDQ: GOOG), just like every other tech company, is vulnerable to glitches and hacks. First was the “human error” that flagged every search result as a link to a malicious site on Saturday — Google didn’t release stats on how many queries were affected that morning, but the company did admit that the glitch went on for an hour.

On Super Bowl Sunday, the Google News server went down just as the Pittsburgh Steelers won the game. Users received a 502 server error message for about 30 minutes; Google confirmed the outage with Mediapost, but didn’t offer any explanation.

And a report from anti-virus software firm Trend Micro released Monday found that hackers had poisoned Google Video Search results with malware. According to the Register, about 400,000 queries led to sites designed specifically to infect vulnerable PCs with malicious software. The hack disguised itself as a Flash update; users were led to believe that they needed to download the file to view the video clip.

Servers go down, sites get hacked and webmasters plug errors into code all the time — but when the errors happen on a property that is as heavily trafficked as Google — the effects are magnified (and scrutinized). The glitches are leading pubs like ZDNet’s Zero Day and Network World to press the question of whether too many people have become too dependent on Google, whether the company has become too dominant a gatekeeper — and whether a viable challenger (Microsoft? Yahoo? Microhoo?) will actually be good for the evolution of the internet as a whole.

Photo Credit: dannysullivan