In light of Sir Tim Berners-Lee's admission this month that
he should have designed World Wide Web http addresses without
the double forward slashes, TIME looks back at some other
memorable screwups involving the Internet.
01- Slashing the Slashes
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited
with creating the World Wide Web in 1989, doesn't seem like
a man who has many regrets. But he admitted earlier this month
at a symposium in Washington that his decision to include
those annoying forward slashes in http addresses was made
on a whim. If he could change one thing about the Internet
now, he says, he would slash the slashes, which are completely
02- The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time
The BBC is undoubtedly one of the best broadcasters in the
world, with a proud history and popular website. But even
the "Beeb" isn't immune to screwing up once in a
while. Consider the case of its "Internet expert"
Guy Goma, who participated in a studio discussion in 2006
regarding music downloads and Apple Computer's victory at
the London High Court against Apple Corps, the record label
for the Beatles. None of the producers noticed anything funny
about Goma until he responded to one of the questions by saying,
"I don't know. I'm not at all sure what I'm doing here."
Turns out that Goma thought he was going to be interviewed
for an IT job at the BBC, not interviewed on air.
03- An Apple Premiere
Two years ago, Apple posted for sale on iTunes what it thought
was the season premiere of the sci-fi TV show Stargate Atlantis.
The episode happened to be the show's fourth installment,
however, which hadn't yet aired. The accidental leak occurred
because of a mix-up over the episode's production and broadcast
numbers. Apple removed the episode 24 hours later, but by
that point, peer-to-peer networks were offering it to their
users for free. To make amends, Apple gave customers who mistakenly
04- Google Gets Spammed
Google's spam-fighting system is apparently too good. A couple
of years ago, Google accidentally mistook the company's own
Custom Search Blog as spam. The Google blogging team in charge
of updating the website didn't notice the warning messages
indicating that the blog would be deleted if the user didn't
clarify that it wasn't spam. When the blog was automatically
deleted, another Web user took over the domain name for the
site. The Google bloggers initially suspected an external
hack job, but then they realized what had gone wrong. They
got the domain name back — and then presumably blogged
about the whole ordeal.
05- Game Over
The box for Capcom's Killer7 video game said it all: "Action-packed
thriller." Anyone who went to the game's official website,
listed on the box as www.killer7.com, would have found a totally
different kind of thriller, though. That URL belonged to a
hard-core-porn site. The game's site should have been listed
06- Never Use Your Name As a Password
Choosing a strong password is a challenge for many of us.
Who out there hasn't used (or thought about using) password
or 1234 at one point in their life? A staffer working for
the state of Nevada proved abysmally bad at selecting a user
name and password two years ago when step-by-step instructions
were accidentally posted on the state's official website giving
instructions on how aides should send out the governor's weekly
e-mail updates. In the instructions, the Outlook user name
was given as governor and the password as kennyc. The former
governor's name? Kenny C. Guinn.
The media behemoth Viacom has engaged in numerous battles
with YouTube over copyright infringement over the years. But
two years ago, Viacom ended up in the embarrassing position
of mistakenly bringing to light the fact that it had committed
some copyright infringement of its own. When Viacom demanded
that YouTube remove a clip of a North Carolina politician's
campaign commercial from a VH1 program called Web Junk 2.0,
it emerged that VH1 hadn't obtained permission to use the
clip in the first place. The politician, Christopher Knight,
was clearly miffed, summing up the situation thusly: "Folks,
this is, as we say down here in the South, 'bass-ackwards.'
" Thankfully for Knight, Viacom backed down, and YouTube
reinstated the video.
08- You've Got (More Than) Mail
In 2006, AOL voluntarily released the search data of 650,000
of its users over a three-month period — some 20 million
Web queries in total. Although the AOL user name had been
changed to a random ID number, one could analyze all the searches
done by a single user and deduce who the person was. Understandably,
the online community was outraged, and AOL acted swiftly,
removing the data and issuing apologetic press releases.
09- Doing the Worm
On Nov. 2, 1988, Robert Morris, a Cornell computer-science
graduate student, wrote an experimental program that he injected
into the Internet. It became the computer world's first "worm."
Although the student's intentions were not necessarily nefarious
— he was testing how large the Internet actually was
— the worm wreaked havoc online, rendering about 600,000
computers unusable. Morris was convicted of violating the
Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and sentenced to three years
of probation, 400 hours of community service and $10,000 fine.
He now works for MIT.
10- In the Dark
Earlier this week, about a million Swedish Internet sites
went down for an hour when routine maintenance caused disruption
to every single .se address (the country's domain). The problem
was caused by an "incorrectly configured script"
in an update of the .se domain. Imagine if this would have
happened to the .com domain, taking down tens of millions
of websites around the planet. It probably wouldn't have stopped
the world from turning on its axis, but it may have come pretty