Google had a grand announcement the other day that many people probably didn’t even notice: Google Search over SSL. If you’re not sure what this means, Wikipedia has a decent article on SSL but here’s a quick blurb:
…Secure Socket Layer (SSL), [is a] cryptographic protocol that provides security for communications over networks such as the Internet. …SSL encrypts the segments of network connections at the Transport Layer.
In English this means is that SSL protects data between your computer and the server that you’re connecting to (in this case, Google’s servers). While I agree that securing your connection is smart for those times when you’re browsing on an unprotected hot spot, there are also some technical implications that this has on your browsing experience. Google pages may load slower and many of the links to services that your normally get won’t appear (at least until they have SSL enabled too).
One of the more important limitations/changes you probably won’t see by enabling SSL is that most browsers turn off their referrer feature. This means that sites won’t know where traffic is coming from on the web. This sounds great but there are a lot of sites that use this information for good, not evil. Sites like LivePerson (Full Disclosure: I am a current employee of LivePerson), Clicky and even Google’s own Analytics use these referrers to figure out the source of traffic. Some sites may offer special information or promotions to people coming from Google and now they won’t be able to do that.
With this, search terms won’t be passed to the sites either. If you’re a good webmaster (and I hope everyone is), you continuously tweak your site to offer information targeted to your visitors and what they’re looking for. Now the only way to do this will be to ask them outright which seems like a big pain in the ass for users and websites alike.
I’m not looking for anything terribly embarrassing (maybe the latest Lady Gaga song) on Google so I don’t think I need SSL in my search life. What do you think? Do you feel the need to protect yourself while ruining analytics for all of those wonderful web sites out there or will you stick with the less secure, slightly faster and still as fun, Google “Standard” Search?
P.S. – While writing this post, the folks over at Clicky had the same thought on the subject.
Jesse Middleton is the Technology Trailblazer at LivePerson, a serial project starter and admirer of cool ideas. He shares his thoughts about tech and life at Srcasm.com – Why is common sense not so common?