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I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that

Posted by anandrr on December 1, 2008

A great many websites in India are simply inaccessible, thanks to the mighty powers of Google and Firefox. Google and Firefox aren’t just helping us find the information that we seek, they’re ensuring that we remain safe while we seek it. And that safety mission is just too important for them to allow us (mere seekers) to jeopardize it.

Google results for Whirlpool

Assume for the moment that you’re in the market for a washing machine. You’re all very fancy with your air-conditioned office and high speed Internets so you think, let me first check what models are actually available. So first, you google “whirlpool.” You’re met with the page on the left. That’s right: Google has a little text that says, “This site may harm your computer.” “WTF?” you think to yourself, we’re talking about Whirlpool here not some neighborhood store company, and anyway I’m on my Mac, (and always up to date with my security updates, right, right?) nothing could possibly happen. whirlpool_google_attack_websiteSo you click on the link anyway. But Google isn’t done with you yet. Instead of taking you to the harmful website, they take you to the page on the right here. That’s right, they really don’t want you to visit the website. But you’re all, “come on now, we’re talking Whirlpool, it should be ok, just take me there.” Aha, but try finding a link on the page that will take you there. Google really doesn’t want you to go to the website. There isn’t a single link or button on the page that says, “Take me there anyway, dammit!” All you’ve got is the link in simple text, that they want you to copy and paste into the location bar. And it’s not even obvious where that text is. You have to read everything to find the url hiding in the text. You finally locate it. whirlpool_firefox_attack_siteHaving located it, you copy-paste it into the url bar. You’re done right? Hah! Think again. Now it’s Firefox’s turn to warn you away from the website. This time in angry maroon! At least, this warning has a link that lets you ignore the warning and infect yourself with all manner of viruses and trojans. Sure the link is almost invisible, it’s a tiny footnote to all the exclamation marks and large buttons urging you to get the hell out of Dodge, but it’s there. You click it, and yes! Mission Accomplished!whirlpool_websiteThere it is in all its ugly glory. The Whirlpool website with its flashy flash and unusable interfaces and poorly laid out tables. But it’s there, and for that we’re grateful. Now we can actually get down to the serious business of picking our seriously fantabulous washing machine with bells and whistles and more horsepower than the computer you’re on now. You navigate the silly Javscript menu to click on the Products->Washing Machine link. whirlpool_inner_firefox_attack_siteOops, you declared success too soon. Firefox is going to bug you for every link you click on. It doesn’t care that you’ve already said you don’t care for sites with malware. It doesn’t care that it’s really just making life really really hard for you. It just cares about you and your welfare. Thank you Firefox, for looking out for me at every turn! Where would I be without you?

But really, there ought to be a law. Firefox, we can pardon. But Google? With all their monopoly power? Net neutrality for me, not for thee, indeed! And does anybody doubt that if Whirlpool were buying the link, Google would happily charge for the clicks and let you go to a website that distributes malware?

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2 Responses to “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”

  1. Given what your company does, are you even permitted this rant? :)

  2. anandrr said

    as i said, they’d be quite alright if whirlpool was buying the link. and we only help others buy links. :)

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