When the best is enemy of the good

(from Le meilleur est l'ennemi du bien - Voltaire)

(from "Le meilleur est l'ennemi du bien" - Voltaire)

If you use the  internet as much as we do, you probably use google and you probably find https security problems quite scary.

If by any chance, like me, you look for "edu" on google :


with Firefox 3.5 or greater and when the first result as below is "mailedu.ge.ch" (this may change in the future or depending on your google's history searches) this is what happens :

google certificate error

And this come a bit as a shock. At least it did for me. What ? A certificate problem with google ?

Everytime you try, same problem.

Well, funnily enough, this problem should happen very very rarely. The reason is that Google engineers have probably realized that most of the time when a user is searching for something with google, he/she will click on the first result.

On the other hand, Mozilla has implemented a new "prefetch" mechanism in Firefox 3.5. This is derived from the old "internet accelerators" when some developers thought it was good to have a program "clicking" for you on links to prefetch the pages in order for the user to have it already in its browser cache before he made his choice on which one he wanted to click on. (Supposedly useful when ... you had a low-bandwidth connection).

This time it's better organised : it is the webmaster of the site the user is visiting who decides (or not) to put special tags in his html to enable this feature, for example :

<link rel="prefetch" href="/images/big.jpeg">

will prefetch the big family poster... when you are still looking at the article and the picture thumbnail for the moment.

So when you use  Google with Firefox (latest version), the first link on the results list is automatically prefetched.

In the case shown above,  the browser tried to pre-fetch the "mailedu" https link, which sadly had a problem with its certificate... and made it look like Google had the problem.

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About the author

Guillaume Arluison
Guillaume Arluison

Guillaume manages the Open Source Practice at blue-infinity.
He set up his first IT company with colleagues at the dawn of the Internet era, whilst finishing his studies in Computer Sciences and Human-Computer Interfaces. He then worked for several well known start-ups as well as many blue-chip companies providing his technical, consulting and managerial skills.