On Friday, Google quietly rolled out a new beta feature for it’s core search service, dubbed ‘Google with SSL.’ While a post on the official Google blog implied that while this new secure connection would eventually be made available on the vast majority of its ancillary services, only the core search property would be part of this public beta for now.
Most consumers are used to seeing banking or e-commerce services use what are known as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connections to encrypt information that travels between your computer and their service. However this is a first for any major search engine and something that competitors Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing have yet to implement.
Usually recognized by a web address starting with “https” along with a browser lock icon, this technology is regularly used to secure log-in areas and to prevent sensitive data from being intercepted. But now, search users will be able to take advantage of this privacy-enhancing feature to help protect their search terms and their search results pages from being intercepted by a third party on your network.
U.S.-based users can begin using the new secure version of Google Search by simply adding a ‘https://’ in front of the standard ‘www.google.com’ URL. The new secure search mode will be rolled out to the rest of the world over the next few days.
Upon visiting the new Google with SSL site, the first thing you may notice is the new modified Google logo that indicates you are searching securely. The second thing you may notice is the lack of ancillary Google products. Image search, Videos, News, Google Maps among other services are conspicuously absent from the site, because these products are not yet compatible and therefore not part of the secure beta offering. The official announcement contains a few caveats as well.
According to Google, “Since SSL connections require additional time to set up the encryption between your browser and the remote web server, your experience with search over SSL might be slightly slower than your regular Google search experience.” And of course, don’t expect sites you visit via your search results to be encrypted, only your search session at Google with SSL.
“Clicking on any of the web results, including Google universal search results for unsupported services like Google Images, could take you out of SSL mode. Our hope is that more websites and services will add support for SSL to help create a better and more consistent experience for you.”