Google announced today that it would be changing the hostname it used for its encrypted search product, https://www.google.com, solving the problems caused for Google Apps users in schools that blocked access to the new secure search site. As I reported last week,
Many schools have blocked Google secure search to prevent kids from bypassing content filters…they’ve also managed to prevent students and staff from getting to Google Apps.
Google explained its solution in a blog post today:
...in a few weeks we will move encrypted search to a new hostname – so schools can limit access to SSL search without disrupting other Google services, like Google Apps for Education. Longer term, we are exploring other options like moving authentication to its own hostname so that we can return encrypted search to https://www.google.com.
The good news in this message is that schools looking to move to Google Apps this summer no longer need to abandon their plans. I also applaud Google for being willing to kill a worldwide property (https://www.google.com) to ensure that their educational (and potentially enterprise) customers can have access to Apps in a manner that is completely consistent with CIPA and other local policies.
The bad news is that "a few weeks" puts us into July, making the solution irrelevant for the 2009-2010 school year. Schools that have built workflows, processes, and collaborative efforts around Google Apps (precisely, by the way, what schools should be doing with these powerful "21st Century tools") are left using Hotmail accounts or authenticating off-campus with a laptop to salvage end-of-year work.
For all of us who have struggled to get teachers to not only adopt but embrace new technologies, it's easy to imagine just how much damage this has done to the perception of Apps and the willingness of teachers to trust in the Cloud. This says nothing of how disruptive the loss of access to critical documents and communications media would be to teachers and administrators.
A few weeks? Come on...this problem was identified shortly after Google rolled out encrypted search on June 3rd and won't be resolved (even temporarily) until sometime in July. Google is, well, Google! If they want to change a canonical domain, I think they could figure out how to do it in less than 5 weeks. I have no doubt that the implications of this change are far-reaching and beyond my little brain's power to comprehend. But Google is hardly being transparent in its attempts to resolve this issue, nor is it clear to thousands of disgruntled users why the problem can't be solved before they and their students have all left for the summer.
Although it's too late now for many schools, others have as many as 2 weeks left before summer break. Many will begin summer school and extra programs in June and could benefit from a hastier resolution. Make it happen, Google. We've all accepted that you basically are the Internet at this point, employing many of the brightest IT minds in the world. You can do better for your most devoted customers.