If you were looking at tech news headlines on April 19, you likely saw it: Google's own safe browsing tool reported that Google.com is "partially dangerous." The discovery led to tons of tweets, blog posts and news articles poking fun at the search engine company. But what does it actually mean?
The tool's purpose is to alert users to dangerous stuff like malware or phishing attacks. Some site administrators might be plotting to steal your information. In other cases, websites that are normally upstanding net citizens end up being compromised in some way. The safe browsing tool gives you a heads-up on any hanky-panky going on at a particular Web address. (For the record, howstuffworks.com is currently dubbed "not dangerous.")
The warnings for Google.com mainly focused on how the website contains pages that could install malware on your computer or redirect you to dangerous websites. That sort of comes with the territory when you're a search engine.
Complicating matters is the fact that Google runs several businesses that allow for user-generated content. Once you open those doors, a few mischief makers are bound to set up shop.
Sean Michael Kerner, eWeek writer, praised Google for being transparent and honest, even when it's awkward to do so. And it's important to remember the real purpose of the safe browsing tool is to alert users to really dangerous links. The main advice Google offers for partially dangerous sites is "don't panic."
As of the writing of this piece, all has returned to normal. The rating for Google.com on the safety browsing tool is "not dangerous." The warnings are still in place regarding the potential for malware and redirection to dangerous websites. But perhaps Google has decided that the needle needs to point a bit more toward dangerous before flagging itself.