Monthly Archives: September 2007

Google backs a $30 million Lunar X-Prize

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!  The X-Prize Foundation just launched a new competition, offering $20 million to the first team to send a rover to the moon and send back high-definition photos. From the Beeb:

To claim the cash, any craft reaching the lunar surface must perform a series of tasks such as shoot video and roam for specific distances.

Firms interested in trying for the prize have until the end of 2012 to mount their Moonshot.

The prize money comes from Google, which is a very good sign.  I like this trend of rich technology companies funding space endeavors, because it means a group of really smart and successful folks end up in charge of making this stuff actually happen. Go geeks!

What happens when Google fails?

I had an eye-opening experience tonight. Google isn’t responding on port 80 (basically to Web requests) from any of its core sites, include search, news, maps, and ads. This is pretty bad by itself; I’d guess over half my browsing is to those sites. Even worse is the effect on the rest of the Web, most of which has some Google content on it. When Google goes down, those sites become almost impossible to reach as well because their pages bog down with broken requests.

For instance, I went looking for information about a new local restaurant tonight. My first stop was Google Local, of course, but that wasn’t responding. Google search (to find the restaurant’s own site or Web reviews) was the logical next step, but that was out as well. I went to Yahoo (which responded instantly), but the restaurant was new enough to be missing from their local listings as well as much of the search index. My next thought was to check Yelp, but that was killed because of their reliance on Google maps. Next stop was the San Diego Reader, which came up only after I forced it to ignore the Google ads. Even my own work uses enough Google content on it to make the site difficult to reach right now.

So yeah. What’s up with Google? Normally I’d check the news for a mention of outages or issues, but that would be Google News. RSS reader? Google, of course. Blog search? Technorati actually works, but there’s no mention of a problem. It can’t just be me; I double-checked using other computers around San Diego. I don’t have access to anything outside of the area, but it seems strange that anything outside Google itself could block port 80 for only Google sites.

So what is up with Google? And should I start stocking up supplies?

UPDATE: So almost the exact moment I posted this, all Google sites came back for me. Still, the question remains: do we rely on Google’s stability far more than is actually justified?