Google’s SSL Signal Penalizes Ordinary People, Small Businesses

With Google’s short-sighted stand that SSL will now be used as a ranking signal in its algorithm, the giant technology and marketing company has finally shown its hand — it doesn’t care about the ordinary web.

SSL is the technology we use when we need to connect with our bank or credit card accounts online. It ostensibly ensures a “secure” connection with the company’s servers. But SSL is not some sort of  cure-all to securing online data — it is prone to other kinds of vulnerabilities and attacks.

SSL can readily be implemented by spammy websites, because those people have a financial incentive to do so. How that makes the web any “safer” is beyond me, but that’s Google’s belief — that just because a website is running SSL, it’s somehow “safer.” SSL still allows viruses and malware to be downloaded. SSL still allows a person to read a website from owners who’ve stolen their content from other websites.

In short, requiring SSL does little to make the web safer for the vast majority of websites. Why? Because most websites are still static, requiring no user interaction or login.

And that’s why SSL won’t be readily implemented by the average Joe running his own personal website. These websites rarely need a login or require any personal data be exchanged.

This means that Google is now penalizing ordinary people — and most small businesses — who just run simple websites without any user interaction.

And with us running out of IPv4 addresses, this move even makes less sense. Each SSL website needs its own unique IP address, and the Internet is virtually out of the old-style IPv4 addresses that are still the Internet’s standard. A new style IP system — IPv6 — addresses fix this problem — but still aren’t used widely. Worse, they are not backward compatible with IPv4 without hardware updates — something a lot of people are loathe to invest in until they absolutely have to.

For websites like Psych Central, it means thousands of dollars in new annual costs and maintenance. It also means an initial development cost that is substantial — and crushing.

Google simply whitewashes over how easy it is to make this sort of move. After reading the Google Webmaster forums (that they refer you to) and consulting with our developers, I find that it is instead a complicated and risky process. It could significantly negatively impact our search rankings if done incorrectly.

And if we implement it on our main website, it means significant and unacceptable slowdowns for people trying to access our mental health information. (Well, we could avoid those slowdowns, but again, at a large monthly monetary cost that Google glosses over for high-traffic sites like ours.)

We prefer to keep our meager budget focused on producing the high-quality content that Google still values more than this SSL signal.

But the writing is clearly on the wall. Small businesses like ours that don’t implement SSL at some point will be penalized for that high quality content, even when there’s little evidence to suggest doing so will improve the safety of the web.



What iPhone 6 Needs to Fix

I’ve enjoyed using my iPhone for years, since its second incarnation. But there remain a few vexing problems that are amplified whenever you try and use the device for many of the tasks it was intended for. Here are a few that I hope the iPhone 6 will finally fix.

Focusing On Largely Unimportant Innovations

In smartphone makers’ neverending battle to offer more pixels per square inch than any other smartphone, Apple has lost sight of what’s really important to end-users. I could put three generations of iPhones next to one another and ask people to say what display is best, and I suspect 9 out of 10 of them wouldn’t be able to pick out the “best” technologically-advanced display. It’s like the old CPU clock speed wars — at some point, you have all the pixels your eye can see and any more doesn’t really help you.

Oh, and of course, the constant upgrade of the CPU to one that consumers more power, resulting in lower battery life times.

What’s more, such higher-density displays inevitably consumer more power as well. So while they make incrementally larger batteries to compensate, today’s iPhone battery life is basically the same as it’s been since the iPhone 3 GS.

Stupid, Poor Camera

Every iteration of the iPhone says it’s offering a better camera than its predecessor. Perhaps Apple has been unaware of what most people use their smartphones for — snapping photos of their life being one of those main things.

So why does even the iPhone 5’s camera suck so badly?

I just came back from a trip in Europe and found that in virtually any low-light situation, this crappy excuse for a camera just couldn’t come close to my point-and-click pocket camera. I see people with Samsung smartphones taking photos that are just amazing. I wish Apple would spend 10 minutes improving their camera and its accompanying app. It needs some serious attention.

Forget All Day Use Outside of US

I rarely could take my iPhone 5 out for the day and use very light app usage for the day while in Europe. It was just horrible. I mean, the extent of using it was to take an occasional (crappy) photo, looking up stuff on the map to where we should head to next, and checking both email and Facebook once or twice a day.

In other words, standard tasks any smartphone user would expect to be able to complete in a day while on their smartphone.

Going to another country shouldn’t cut the usefulness of my smartphone in half. And yet that’s exactly what happened with my iPhone 5 — it reliably dying in the evening while I was still out and about.

As I mentioned previously, iPhones have constantly sacrificed increased battery life for more power and more display density. iPhone battery life has not increased significantly since the iPhone 3 GS — maybe an hour per generation.

I want a phone that can easily go 2 days without charging — in the US or Europe. Don’t make me worry about where my next charge is going to be.

Wires Are So 20th Century

I can’t believe that not only does Apple still embrace wires, but went so far as to say, “Hey, this old style wire no longer works as well for our technical needs, let’s make everyone change over to a different, still-not-industry-standard new wire” with the iPhone 5. Instead of embracing awesome technologies like inductive charging, Apple still leads the charge for proprietary, old-technology wires.

At least iTunes will update apps over the air. That only took 2 years longer than it should have.

New Features that Stagnate

Siri was a ground-breaking feature when it was first offered. However, since its introduction, Siri has stagnated. It’s had some marginal improvements during its lifetime, but it still can’t do simple tasks that would make our lives easier.

For instance, “Remind me the next time I talk to my boss that I need to bring up topic X.” Siri hasn’t a clue.

“Next time I’m at the bank, make sure I ask them to update my address.” Siri is confused.

Siri was a great feature that hasn’t kept up with the times — or its competitors.

Stupid Changes That Did Nothing

Hey, I understand you have a dozen UI guys and gals sitting around looking for something to do. You need to update things from time to time, including the UI design. But the whole “Hey, flat icons look more modern than 3D icons” design move was just a waste of resources and time — and got you nothing but bad press when foisted upon users who never complained about that part of the interface.

The things users actually complain about in the UI — confusing and ever-changing shortcuts that you bring up by mistake due to a mis-swipe, for instance — aren’t addressed. Forcing users to put apps (like the New York Times) in a special folder for no reason other than you think it’s the “right” place to host the app is just plain dumb.

More Changes for the Sake of Change

I don’t care what the case is made of. I don’t care if you offer it with square corners or rounded ones (although obviously a rounded-corner device slides and lives more gracefully in the front pocket of men’s pants — where most men put their smartphone). I don’t care what kind of glass you use on the front of the unit, because I have never dropped my phone (and buy your Apple Care protection plan in case I do).

In short, when you make changes that you flaunt as some sort of “innovation,” my eyes glaze over and I stop listening. I just assume that an Apple device will be tough, durable and reliable in its casing. If you start making cheap, plastic devices, then I’ll care.

If you do something stupid, like not accepting a standard headphone in a standard headphone jack, I’ll just assume your engineers were bored — not innovative. Or, more cynically, that you did it to increase your profit margins — which leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

In short…

Change for the sake of change is boring. Battery life remains paramount in a device that people use for as a personal assistant in their lives. One of those key personal assistant things is taking photos — so improve your camera. Spend more time innovating on the 90 percent of things that are important to your customers, instead of the 10 percent of things that nobody cares about.



Auto-Play Video: Worst Idea Ever

As a matter of principle, I try to avoid any website in the future that’s shoved an auto-play video (usually with audio enabled!) into my face while trying to access their content. Whether it’s an ad, a promo, or whatever — I don’t care.

The choice of whether I want to play a video on my computer is mine and mine alone. A publisher who takes that choice away from me is not a publisher I want to grace in the future.

So why is auto-play video such a bad idea? Here are 5 good reasons.

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Another Security Breach: Living Social

You know, these security breaches — where people external to a company break-in (usually virtually) and steal the company’s data — are becoming increasingly common. Living Social is the latest “victim” of a breach, compromising 50 million accounts. Fifty million!

Yet if you’re a digital company operating solely on the Internet and mobile platforms, you have only one asset you need to protect — your data. Your customer’s data is like gold. You have only one chance to protect it.

Living Social, like so many companies that have come before it, has lost another customer.

So when I went to close out my account, guess what I didn’t find anywhere in my account’s profile page? “Delete account.”

Wow. Just wow.

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