by Mike Masnick

Google Web Accelerator Really About Google Using Your Computer For Their Grid?

from the maybe,-possibly... dept

A few years back when you couldn't open a new web site without hearing about yet another distributed computing project (all compared to SETI@Home, despite it not really being the first such project), Google did a little experimenting in the space by experimenting on their toolbar with distributed computing, allowing users to contribute some spare cycles to Folding@Home. About a year later, perennial also-ran search engine Looksmart tried to get into the distributed search engine game by begging volunteers to install an app that would search for Looksmart. This seemed a bit odd at the time. People got involved with distributed search projects because they thought they were helping some big public "good," such as finding aliens or curing cancer. Helping a commercial search engine search better probably wasn't all that compelling. At the time, Google responded by saying the difficult part of search wasn't the computing power needed or the ability to find more sites, but crunching the data to figure out which pages were really relevant -- and that wasn't something that a distributed app could help that much with. Is it possible they've changed their minds? While there are plenty of theories about why Google launched a web accelerator project (since many don't see how it relates to search), Tristan Louis has submitted his own theory, saying that it has a lot more to do with search than most people think. His argument is that the Web Accelerator is just a back door way for Google to use everyone's computer as a distributed part of the Google grid. Since Google gets to record every webpage you go to, it's not hard to see how that data can be processed back into the overall search engine crawler data for indexing -- or for Google to just build an indexing system directly into the Accelerator. Considering their earlier comments, it might be a stretch at this point to think that's where they're going with this, but it's at least a theory worth mentioning. Update: Meanwhile, people are freaking out after realizing that Google's web accelerator is doing the one thing you don't want a caching system to do: caching private login info. So, people are finding themselves logged in as someone else on pages that require a login (and probably realizing that others are going to be logged in as them). This looks to just be an extension of an earlier problem people noticed with Google's search engine caching -- meaning, they should have known about this already. Update: But wait, it gets even worse. Various sites are reporting that the "pre-fetching" option basically clicks all links on a page, including ones that say things like delete this account. Ooops.

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  • identicon
    Precision Blogger, 6 May 2005 @ 10:01am

    "delete my account"

    Someone at slashdot has reported that since the accelerator seems to try out all links to each page, it can execute some you'd rather it never touched.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    schleifnet, 6 May 2005 @ 11:30am

    check the web master faq
    has answers and questions and makes me wonder are we up in arms over nothing?
    '2. Can I specify which links Google Web Accelerator will prefetch on my pages?

    Yes, you can. For each link you'd like us to prefetch, simply add the following snippet of code somewhere in your page's HTML source code:

    The href value should be the actual URL you want prefetched. Google will prefetch this page, and when your users click on this link, that page will load more quickly. '
    does this mean that google doesn't prefetch links without the rel defined? have you tried to contact the email at the bottom of the page or are all the blogs etc going crazy over nothing?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pete Austin, 7 May 2005 @ 6:17am

      Re: check the web master faq

      Also in the web master faq:

      "1. What does Google Web Accelerator mean for my site?
      It means that you don't need to modify your website in order for your users to enjoy a faster experience."

      For the above to be true, Google must presumably retrieve links on ordinary pages that don't have any rel="prefetch" properties.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    willis, 6 May 2005 @ 3:54pm

    It also kills your ad blocker

    It actually slowed my surfing because it started making my blocked ads show up againn. Not cool.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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