Malware. Hackers. Cybercrimes. The end of Net Neutrality. Facebook fake news. “Surfing the web” can seem like navigating a minefield these days. Just when you think you have a handle on everything, it seems like the ever-changing internet landscape has a new surprise in store for you. So how do you know when you are safe? Well, some of the changes that are taking place on the web lately are very positive and will help quite a bit to make the internet a safer place. The most notable lately is Google’s push for all websites to have SSL Certification.
This is actually not “new” news. As far back as 2014 Google discussed at length their plan to promote this change, basically trying to get websites to move to “secure” Hypertext Transfer Protocol instead of the always-used Hypertext Transfer Protocol. You might have noticed the HTTPS vs HTTP in your browser address bar for some websites. The difference? Security, plain and simple, and it is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. In the past, only sites that included ecommerce or protected logins required them, but Google has taken requirements a step further and as of this week will now flag any site without an SSL Certificate as “unsafe”.
Many websites have quietly moved to HTTPS over the last two years, knowing that this was coming, but many websites have not, including the popular sports site, ESPN.com (as of the writing of this article, they still were not HTTPS). If you visit a site that does not have an SSL Certificate, what does that mean for you? Well, unless you are logging in and entering personal data, or making a purchase, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. If you are just browsing or looking for funny dog videos, you should be just fine. However, if you are logging into an online bank account or purchasing the latest fashion from an online store you just came across, you might want to confirm that they are secure before doing so.
As for website owners who haven’t yet made the move, how imperative is it that you do? Over time, you might see a change in your Google ranking, but it is not expected to have an appreciable effect in the immediate future and it still won’t affect your ranking as much as stale or low-quality content, or outdated website code will. However, if you offer an online store or require a login, you are already probably seeing a loss of traffic and/or sales, so it would behoove you to make the switch sooner rather than later. More and more, customers are learning to check for site security before making a purchase or offering their more critical personal info, so if you don’t offer that security, they won’t buy from your store!
The bottom line is that having your SSL Certificate or patronizing websites that offer that level of security is in your best interest. Sure, some skeptics have criticized Google for forcing the hands of website owners to cough up the extra fees to become SSL Certified, but many applaud them for doing what they can to ensure the safety of the everyday user. In the ever-changing landscape of the internet, there will always be new hurdles to clear. Whether you are a website owner or just someone who spends a lot of time on the web, this one will make the internet a safer place for everybody.