Yes, that’s all it took to bring the search engine behemoth shuddering to a halt for almost 55 minutes, as users around the world grappled with a problem when all their search queries were labelled potentially harmful. As this also disabled links, users could not directly click and access any websites during this period, and were forced to copy paste the url links into the toolbar manually. 

This error caused millions of users scratching their heads, puzzled as to why every single site, including Google itself was flagged with a warning notice, ‘This site may harm your computer’.

The problem?

“This was clearly an error, and we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused to our users. What happened? Very simply, human error,”

as Marissa Mayer, VP, Search Products & User Experience acknowledged on the company blog.

And what was the human error? While updating harmful sites, a single forward slash (/) was put on the list in place of a complete url, thereby putting every single web site on the internet into a black hole.

Google earlier laid the blame on a non-profit, StopBadware.org, for erroneously identifing all other websites as containing malicious software or ‘malware’, and then quickly backtracked when the cause became known.

Stopbadware.org also clarified on its blog that it did not supply Google with a list of badware urls as was commonly perceived.

There was also some concern among users of Gmail that genuine messages were being sent to the Spam folder following this error, though no news was immediately forthcoming on that front.