As reported earlier this month, Google's new encrypted search tool (formerly found at https://www.google.com) was causing Google Apps for Education to be unusable in many schools and districts. Because students were able to circumvent content filtering to some degree by using the secure search site, many schools blocked it. At the same time, they also blocked the domain used by Google Apps for authentication.
Google announced Friday that it had, as promised, moved the secure search site to a domain that administrators could easily block without interfering with Google Apps. According to the Google Enterprise Blog,
Less than two weeks ago, we announced here that we would be moving our encrypted search service to a new hostname in order to better serve our school partners and their users. Today, we moved encrypted search from https://www.google.com to https://encrypted.google.com. The site functions in the same way. However, if school network administrators decide to block encrypted searches on https://encrypted.google.com, the blocking will no longer affect Google authenticated services like Google Apps for Education.
This is excellent news and, although I was originally critical of the length of time Google took to make this happen, it is clearly at no small cost to the search engine. I'm not talking cost in terms of money, although one has to wonder if utilization will decrease (thereby decreasing ad revenues) with a less intuitive canonical domain, but rather a cost in terms of branding and loss of face. When Google introduced its secure search product, it was clearly a part of the Google brand. It has now been relegated to a second-class subdomain.
I'm being a bit dramatic here, but I have to applaud Google for taking what, from a marketing standpoint, is a fairly bold step to ensure that customers leveraging a free service (Google Apps for Education largely replicates the features of Premiere Edition but is free to all schools, colleges, and universities) can have unfettered access to Apps. Google is looking at long-term solutions that can allow their secure search to revert to its former domain, but for now, schools looking at summer migrations to Apps have one less thing to consider. Schools already using Apps will be able to access the groupware and online productivity software without concern for CIPA violations.