Google Blames Web Accelerator Problems on Publishers

44 comments
Source Title:
Google Confirms Bugs in Web Accelerator
Story Text:

In an Eweek story, Matt Hicks talks about Google Web Accelerator breaking web apps and has some choice quotes from everybody's favorite Google spin doctor, Marrisa Mayer..

Mayer said the problem stemmed from the way some sites have implemented their HTTP cache-control headers, which provide information such as language preferences to a browser. Google uses those headers to determine whether a page is meant for an individual user, in which case it would not live on its servers, Mayer said.

Google plans to notify the Webmasters of the affected sites about the need to fix their cache-control headers as well as work on a solution within Web Accelerator, Mayer said.

Give me strength...

Comments

 

Is that the corporate PR equivilant of "It works on my PC" ;-)

and if not on yours

contact your system administrator, right! After all, it's all your fault anyway.

LOL

They've officially confirmed privacy issues

See:
http://google.weblogsinc.com/entry/1234000417042700

Question is - will they turn off the bugger altogether now, or will those who signed up continue to enjoy their privacy busting spree unhindered?

Google aka phisherman's friend, he he.

 

Google officials Friday confirmed that the company was aware of as many as five sites where Web Accelerator was returning users cached pages under other people's user names.

OMG not five sites, that's terrible - lucky it is not 50,000 or it'd be really serious

I for one would like to see Google try to contact every site which is not 100% WC3 compliant (and causing their tool to break sites) without spamming the bulk of webmasters on the Net.

Give Me Strength Too

The same people bitching about a beta app they downloaded and installed more than likely number among those same people that tell people that their compliant pages are technically correct and render properly in a standards-compliant browser.

It's not my pages, it is your pathetic browser, get a real browser!

Google could say, "Hey look, it's NOT our app, it's YOUR poorly designed, non-compliant crap". They could say that, but what they did say was that they would attack the problem at both sources.

I'm certainly not a fan of the web accelerator app, it crashed my browser twice and I think it's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. I don't like the seemingly perpetual betas G releases but I also understand why they choose to do so. I too would want as broad a testing platform as possible.

On the other hand, I think it is now considered hip to bash Google, much like it was hip to bash Microsoft before that became passe.

So while the villagers run for their scythes and pitchforks I'd like to point out that this seems to be a tempest in a teapot. I can find more anti-spin than I can find G-spin and the anti-spin is as least as subjective as the G-spin.

Yes, yes, Google is evil. So are knee-jerk reactions and labels. So is Mcarthyism and witch-hunts. Lot of that going around lately.

Google stopped the downloads. They were made aware of some serious flaws and they are reacting to that knowledge. What more is to be expected from them?

Stopped the downloads? Not so.

Haven't had the time yet to check today but as of last night my time the download page itself (not the intro one) was still up and functional.

What more is to be expected from them?
How about not launching such an invasive thingy in the first place?
Dropping AutoLink?
Stop cacheing people's content (and cannibalizing it) without their permission?
Stop trying to place the load of their shitty tech on the shoulders of others who they don't reimburse for their troubles. ("NO FOLLOW" ring a bell?)

There's also a trend to bash bashing, you know - no less knee-jerk than what it pretends to tackle.

Google Bashing

I must admit I have fallen into this trap of late but it really is just the cycle of life.
seems to me there might be an opening for a new Search Engine start up to become the darling of webmasters and start grabbing market share.

For The Most Part, We Agree

I think the "thingy" is next to useless. (for me in fact, it is useless, I'm on a satellite connection) ;) I tried the Autolink thingy as well and found it next to useless. I've been outspoken against Google caching people's content since the inception of the practice. Nofollow was a useless solution to a problem G helped create.

Evil is just too heavy an adjective to use lightly. If data gathering is inherently evil, then so be it. We're going to need a much wider brush to tar and feather all those data gatherers. What I foresee is massive amounts of legislation in the future. Regulations out the ying-yang about data collection procedures. That's when we'll see the real evil, albeit, given the tacit approval of the people via laws.

For the record, I'm not bashing bashing, just noting that bashing Google is trendy.

5 sites...

The something awful forum was given as an example of a site experiencing this blunder, but they run vbulletin, just like thousands of other sites on the 'net.

So, the question is, are all vbulletin installations affected, or just a bit of customisation on somethingawful.com that is causing the issue for them?

Added: RE the issue of Google-Bashing, I think this is a case of everything in moderation. Currently we hear just too much about Google too often, and its driving everyone nuts.

Food for thought - How many times a day you see or hear the Google name/brand?

Evil is just too heavy an adjective to use

at all, IMV: what's religion and its modern day substitute, "ethics" got to do with it?

Either you accept a practice for whatever reason (selfish or not), or you don't - again, for whatever reason etc.

And yes, legislation and regulation will be forthcoming - not that I expect anything good from it, but it will probably be similar to anti trust laws, etc., with administrations reserving the right to participate in toto. (Data mining is far too juicy a tool of social engineering to leave it to some corporate bozos who might suddenly decide to switch jurisdictions and sever the tax streams.)

Sure, bashing Goo may be trendy in many quarters - it's just that I don't see a lot of it here at TW. Thankfully. Being outspoken and critical and outlining the reasons and arguments for your position is an altogether different animal.

Maybe it's time Goo realized they can't have their cake and eat it, too: turn their outfit into a mega corporation on the one hand, raking in tons of money across the board, and expect every man and his dog to support them for free as if they were some public not-for-profit community effort which they never were in the first place.

It's quite interesting to see how their PR quality and savvy has deteriorated ever since their IPO: they're very much more prone to adopt the usual corporate tactics of either ignoring whatever issues won't fit in with their neatly cut out preconfigured timeframe (look at their non-response to the AutoLink outcry ...) or opting for the time worn blamestorming spiel, as they're doing now. It's things like that which help nurture the growing perception that they're so darn "arrogant" it makes you wince.

And as for their demonstrated blatant ignorance in addressing webmasters' concerns: "When a civilisation has decided to bury its head in the sand what can we do but tickle its arse with a feather?" - Lawrence Durrell

 

If Mary Smith has a weak password and her cell phone gets hacked and inappropriate pictures find there way onto the web, aside from Mary who cares. If it happens to Paris Hilton it's a whole different ballgame. If a small computer company develops a bad application no one notices, but when Google does everyone notices.

People enjoy watching the mighty fall, maybe it's a David vs. Goliath thing, or maybe it's a voyeurism of absolute power corrupting absolutely, but people are interested. A news source whether online or offline gets viewers/readers by covering front of mind subjects just like this one.

 

Well I'm on record for bashing Google long before it was trendy. :D As for the current trend, it is refreshing after so many years of people lining up to defend Google from any criticism of any kind. People are shaking off the Stockholm syndrome.

Stockholm Syndrome?

Quote:
The Stockholm syndrome is a psychological state in which the victims of a kidnapping, or persons detained against their free will – prisoners – develop a relationship with their captor(s). This solidarity can sometimes become a real complicity, with prisoners actually helping the captors to achieve their goals or to escape police.

Don't think Google have actually detained people against their will!

 

Quote:
As for the current trend, it is refreshing after so many years of people lining up to defend Google from any criticism of any kind.

Isn't it?

Stockholm Syndrome

I'm not the first person to make that analogy. They certainly felt hostage to Google's whims back when Yahoo and every search engine and his dog used Google.

 

>>If a small computer company develops a bad application no one notices, but when Google does everyone notices.

yeah but as a small computer company I have to say it's amazing some of this wasn't picked up on - it sounds like some sweeping assumptions were made (if there's no ? in the link it's assumed it won't be user specific??) - even a few Google employees running this as a test for a few weeks would have been expected to pick up on some of these problems - the autoclicking delete and logging people out issues I've see reported don't sound too tricky to see.

You would expect problems with a beta release - of course you would - but if it's really had no testing at all then a nice soft release to a few people to start with would have been a good idea surely? I thought that was what they did actually - but they seem to have forgotten a step this time.

 

>>Google Blames Web Accelerator Problems on Publshers

I admit it, it was my site that messed up Google Web Accelerator. I'm the one that broke it. *hangs head*

Ah, so it was you

who deserves that medal!

 

So, any one of you got a bad cache-control headers notification yet? I've been sitting on the porch all day :-]

Its googles sword

I doubt the word "evil" would be so bandied about if google would have come up with a lesser assertion. Most marketing folks know something like that is a time bomb ticking away...

tic

tic

 

>>As for the current trend, it is refreshing after so many years of people lining up to defend Google from any criticism of any kind.

>>Isn't it?

Bahh. One extreme to the other. I loathe the mindless defense of Google too. Betrayal of trust has now turned a lot Google sycophants into droning bashers. "Inept Beta Launch" I can deal with. "Google Eats Babies" is a bit different. "Google Attempts To Undermine Web Privacy" assumes intent.

Those that are placed on pedestals are the first to be toppled when the people in overalls feel betrayed.

>>post-IPO

Machinations of public entities cause the gears to drag. Wasn't surprising. I would assume that the public face has many more handlers now.

re "evil"

My view is that what we call "evil" is simply the part of our nature we wish could ignore, in ourselves and in those we love, while vilifying that same nature in those we dislike.

>>privacy issues

C'mon? From an app that someone must download, install and then is required to sign an agreement? Sounds like privacy was waived. Caching my content without my consent and simply providing an optout method of prevention is far more insidious.

Shouting "Google Is Evil" from the rooftops does more harm than good. No one listens to doomshouters and cranks with agendas. Thankfully, I don't have to deal with doomshouters here. A quick search will turn up a few though.

So, is that application really intended to lull people into a complacent state whereby they don't mind having their innermost surfing secrets ripped from their total possession or is it simply a poorly planned and executed piece of code that was designed as a solution to a problem that doesn't exist?

I'll check back in a few, I have to wear my "Frankenfood Is Killing Mother Nature" sandwich board for a couple of hours. ;)

a question of market power

The manner in which google is approaching this is rooted in market power.

Only a firm with influence could hope to release a product which is realistically not a beta but an alpha and hope for success.

Then, when problems are discovered, address these problems by telling everyone else to change their sites.

Could you demand such a course of action?

Not even the developers for squid would dream of such a thing. Instead, over the *years* they quietly figured out how to work around their problems internally.

Finally, those arguing for opt-out provisions have already given in. The pre-fetch should be implemented as a fully opt-in mechanism.

Okay, so maybe they are evil. Just a bunch of whining babies then. It's *never* their fault.

Funny thing. Pick a browser. Any browser. They all manage to mostly render some reasonable representation of even badly broken sites. Without demanding that sites be modified. This is fair. The site can put out whatever it likes and the browser can render it in whatever fashion it can manage.

"Google Attempts To Undermine Web Privacy" assumes intent.

And - is that really such an unreasonable assumption?

In Goospeak: what about that "bad neighborhood" concept of theirs? If dubious friendships are supposed to reflect on yourself, what do we make of their NSA connections then? Esp. within the context of that wonderful Patriot Act ver. 2 or whatever?

While I don't really find it particularly surprising, the prevalent lack of political understanding of this whole issue is more than a bit disturbing not the least because it deflects resources and attention to the trivia, neatly avoiding the truly serious concerns. Even the most superficial study of history should teach everyone otherwise.

Think what you may about those avatars of mediocrity making up the current political class of Europe: if there's one thing to be said for them it's that they can draw back on a tradition of powerbroking going back for two millenia. If they are worried about Goo, it's because they still have an intact, fairly accurate instinct telling them what's really at stake here.

While I'm not endorsing the measures they are taking to escalate the battle of cultures (no, not Huntington's overhyped "Clash of Civilizations" - that's essentially a crusader's concept more in line with the fashistoid ideology of the Xtian Right than being based on any verifiable real world facts) I would submit that it might be a wise move to view their antics from that perspective for a change, rather than simply poke fun at them and missing the whole point.

So, it's not about some weirdo, blue-eyed concept of "privacy" going down the drain - that's long gone and dead as much as is Swiss "bank secrecy", "anonymous banking" offshore tax evasion, and other mildly anarchic "Paper Trail" stuff. Just like Frankenfood or Pro-Kyoto activism isn't only about GM foodstuff or climate change, either. Neither is it mere doomshouting to point out what Goo (and others - let's not refuse them the benefit of the doubt alone ...) just may be up to - and where we all will stand once they've prevailed.

You are 100% right IMV that hysteria is less than helpful and actually quite contraproductive. However, it isn't very conducive to a constructive discourse either having to fence off insinuations, however well intended, that one might just about fall into that trap. That will only stifle debate.

Personally, I couldn't care less if Goo got their act together and launched a less buggy beta of GWA - it's the whole concept behind it and the agenda it is supposed to service that I find worrisome.

Most GoogleSpeak Mayer quote

Marissa Mayer in the news.com article:

"To date, we're not doing anything with this data in terms of market research. We have no plans, but should that change we would aggressively notify our users and give them some escape hatch," Mayer said.

So, two questions:

  1. If you have no plans to use it, why collect it?
  2. If you do decide to use it, what escape hatch are you going to give your user? You already have the data, are you going to return it to them?

(Dang, tinfoilhats.com is already registered.)

"Aggressively notify our users"?

What's that supposed to mean, anyway? With a basball club, perhaps? ("Now if you don't allow us to use that data of yours whichever way we like, we'll report you to your administration for the filthy, sociopathic lowlife you are - better signup.") Sounds plain terrible.

 

Yes, yes, Google is evil. So are knee-jerk reactions and labels. So is Mcarthyism and witch-hunts. Lot of that going around lately.

Well, I don't personally harbor any ill-will towards Google particularly, and they have done some amazing things. But unbridled market power is (almost?) as bad as innovation-stifling regulation. Both need to be held in check. Whose job is that?

In the days of McCarthy trials, did people openly agree that is was evil? Nope. They allowed it to happen first. And witch-hunts? That's even more interesting, because there is a large body of scholarly work into it. Very interesting stuff... in a delicate age, many rulers had no choice but allow the people to burn their neighbors (for a greater good? Social stability not otherwise maintainable?). I disclaim scholarly insights into history, but it ain't the same thing as the anti-Google stuff I am reading (here partly, but mostly elsewhere).

I love Google for what it does right, and I want Google to know about what it does wrong. The next time they apparently-unfairly-and-with-no-discussion ban one of my sites, I may become a hater, too. Who knows?

Thanks again to Nick for a FORUM to discuss things that need public debate, and thanks to the players for staying even though the debate isn't as easy as it is in other places (where the pro-G tone is so strong it inhibits intelligent discussion).

GWA still downloadable

At least from where we are:
http://webaccelerator.google.com/dc.html

One would have thought that they'd be able to delete that page in the course of two days or so ...

I call BS

... on WA, of course, but also on all this kindergarten talk about "evil" like the worlds biggest advertising agency was some fantasy character in a childs game.

This is something Google invented and every use of those terms is nothing but dancing after Googles pipe. Now, Google is not a cute little garage startup anymore (if it ever was) and people need to realize that, otherwise they're fooling themselves.

We don't even get to see the tip of the iceberg. It's all a smokescreen designed to keep competitors, customers, and the general society uninformed but happy at any particular time. Now, that sounds like tin foil, but it's not. It's not "good", it's not "bad" - it's just a very clever way to run a very large business, keeping people thinking that it's small and insignificant.

I'm not talking about "sinister ulterior motives", that's cr*p, so forget it. Also, all that nonsense about "good" and "evil" is just more kindergarten talk, and it's all part of the smokescreen. This is business -- nothing more, nothing less -- big business, even. It's so big business that it goes way over the head of most people here, and Google would very much like to keep it that way, which is why they keep using that "cute little garage startup" image.

Source msg #420

A sober assessment

and well put, indeed. So even if we paint worst case scenarios which might occasionally border on the hysterical, it would still qualify for a task we'd better cover as soon and as best we can before being pushed out of the door straight into the dungeon by Goo - as SEOs, as advertisers, as searchers.

Calling their attitude "megalomaniac", while essentially a polemical judgment, neatly summarizes the essence of what they are perceived to be doing.

Also, let's not forget that all of this doesn't occur within the neat, cosy confines of SEO or of search alone - that's why (foreign) administrations have begun to take notice and I'm certain we'll hear a lot more from that quarter fairly soon.

vbulletin

There's gobs of sites running on vbull software out there. As was mentioned, I wonder is this all sites that run on it? I've noticed that the browser's password mananger does not remember the info for sites using vbulletin.

 

So few people here believe the "evil" bit. Never did, but Google uses that kind of language to control public opinion - you might as well fight fire with fire if you want to control that public opinion too.

Now I never liked invoking the term evil into search engine debates but I will gladly hoist Google on their own petard when they ask for it.

Assumptions

>>And - is that really such an unreasonable assumption?

No, but it still an assumption. If we must "agree" with one assumption then we're forced to "deal with" the following assumptions. That's the first step on the slippery slope which quickly becomes a mad dash to untenable positions and rash actions. Debate 101.

What's bewildering to me, is that we have become so tolerant of mediocrity in individuals, yet so quick to condemn mediocrity in groups or corporations. Ahh yes, people make mistakes, but a mistake made by a group need inherit our vitriol.

No point in personalising it

nor in anthropomorphizing either a search engine or the corporation behind it.

As for assumptions: well, of course they will lead to further assumptions - that's the whole point about making them in the first place. Logics 101, eh? :-)

After all, there's only a need for doing so lacking hard, verifiable data. No fault of mine that Goo isn't willing to spill the beans, is it? This said, it does remain guesswork until (dis)proven, sure.

However, what's an SEO to do? If all you'll accept is factual, well calibrated data, you may end the debate in no time, sure - but on a level of perplexity which won't help you any further either.

we have become so tolerant of mediocrity in individuals

Now that's a pretty sweeping assumption, wouldn't you say? Not at all sure that everyone would agree ...

And: it's not just any group we're discussing here - this particular animal happens to have dominated the whole world of search for the better part of 3 years now, acting as the planet's primary conduit of digitalized information access. Why else would "google", the verb, have become common usage in several Western languages?

This is about impact and what it can, may and will do to you and many, many others. "The world according to Goo" is not a concept I particularly fancy.

And lest this go under here: I for my part am not worried about any of their "mistakes", begging remediation - I'm concerned about the whole line they're pursuing, read: their steady march towards near-total IR dominance which might very conceivably end up in a full blown information dictatorship in anything but name.

Within this context it's of absolutely no import whether the Goo managers and owners happen to "mean well" or "evil" - once you let this particular djinn escape from its flask you can bet your ass there'll be plenty of other interested parties only too eager to get hold of it and actually wield the power we have let them amass in pursuit of their own agenda ...

Power corrupts

and we all know the rest of Lord Kelvin's aphorism.
The problem is that Google is a (I'm inclined to say 'the', because their isn't a lot in it) dominant power in the field.
If you lose your ranking in the SERPs, you lose income.
If you are banned from adsense, you lose income.
If your fraud rates are too high on adwords you pay too much.
There is no real alternative.
And we will have to live with the consequences of that, or work to alter it.
How? Dunno - would a mass industry movement to eg MSN be effective? It seems unlikely - no one else offers everything that Google does.
But. This is business. Alternatives will crop up with time.
Its only a question of how much time. And how unpleasant the wait is.

And if we are into quotations..

“Power without responsibility — the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”

Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, in a speech written for him by Rudyard Kipling

Aggressively notify my ass

Here's an example of Google "aggressively notifying" the public of a change in policy:

"Wayne Rosing said there will be an information firewall separating Google's search engine from Gmail. 'We don't use the data collected on one service,' he said, 'to enhance another.'" -- Associated Press, 2004-04-06

______Oops what we really meant was....

"If you have an account, we may share the information submitted under your account among all of our services in order to provide you with a seamless experience and to improve the quality of our services." -- new Google privacy policy, 2004-07-01

"Well," the Google cultists will be eager to add, "at least they came clean." Not quite, not completely, and not voluntarily. There is a new law that went into effect in California on 2004-07-01. It is called the Online Privacy Protection Act. Google's old, vague privacy policy would have been a violation of this new law. Now their privacy policy is still vague, but not as vague as the previous 2000-08-14 version of their policy.

Anyone who believes Marissa Mayer when she spins from the Googleplex should study the entire pattern of obfuscation we've had from Google.

Was GWA implemented because Google is so grateful for all its billions that it wants to reward its loyal fans? Give me a break, please.

By the way, this HTTP 1.1 "Cache-Control: private" tag that Google is insisting on (never mind that GWA should be opt-in for webmasters instead of opt-out, and if opt-out it should at least be site-wide instead of required on every page) -- I'll bet that Google came up with this idea after the fact. I've been using the old HTTP 1.0 no-cache stuff since 1996, which were these: HTTP-EQUIV="EXPIRES" CONTENT="0" and HTTP-EQUIV="PRAGMA" CONTENT="NO-CACHE".

Now sure, you can say that I've been out of date for nine years, and you can say that I shouldn't even be allowed to put up such silly old METAs, and I'm somewhat embarrassed that I never heard of "Cache-control: private" until GoogleGuy mentioned it a few days ago. So now I'm scrambling to put in this new header, just like I scrambled to put in Google's NOARCHIVE to stop the cache copy (and had to change it years later, from GOOGLEBOT to ROBOTS when Yahoo, Gigablast, and MSN started imitating Google's cache copy), and just like I had to scramble when Google grabbed all my images and then announced a month later that they were starting this new thing called an "image search."

But I ask you this: Will Google honor the old HTTP 1.0 tags as well as the new 1.1 tag? My guess is, "No they won't." And the reason they won't is that they probably know that of all the no-cache tags used on all web pages, perhaps only a very tiny percentage use the 1.1 standard. The reason is NOT because checking for an old META would place an unreasonable burden on Google's servers.

I concur with that hilarious mixed metaphor: What we're getting from Google is a smokescreen, and it's just the tip of the iceberg.

"Fire on the berg, fire on the berg!"

wow....

Cornwall:

“Power without responsibility — the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”

Nice reference! The more you think about it the more it fits.... for whatever reasons.

Nice quote on O'Reilly Radar

The snippet there reads

Quote:
And now comes the Google Web Accelerator. Be sure to check out the FAQ. I can't help but think of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons, planning to block out the sun so that his nuclear power plant can supply "electrical lights and heaters running all day long!"

page 2 ?

I wonder if the reason Nick has not published any new threads to the front page is because he's just realised these threads never end and he has to build thread pages into this site.

He's moving house

so I guess he'll have his hands full with other stuff.

 

Marissa Meyer is a class act publicist. It's always good to blame everyone else. "Never accept responsibility, blame everything else" - PR mantra.

I'm also impressed that a company like Google, that can't even create a W3C compliant website, starts to complain about other sites not following "web standards".

Ha ha, they finally managed

to delete their GWA download page at http://webaccelerator.google.com/dc.html
(At least I'm not getting it anymore from here.)
Glory hallelujah - took 'em only three bloody days ...

 

Jeremy Zawodny's bullshit detector has been going off...

Quote:
I have a hard time believing that a company with that much infrastructure is having capacity problems with a service that's likely being used by a relatively small number of people, considering how many were scared away by the admitted information leaks and security problems.

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