My Stupid Websites Are Working Again

I want to scream about my websites, which for the last month became “my stupid websites.” They stopped working properly. If you visited annvbaker.com or womenatwoodstock.com using Chrome, wonderful. Ta da. They looked perfect. But if you tried to visit either one using Firefox or Edge, blammo. Dire warnings blasted your screen; red and black lettering, big exclamation points, triangles and plain-white-screen ugliness shouting that my site was not safe and you’d better run away fast before Ann V. Baker or Women At Woodstock try to steal your identity or something.

Oh, but that’s OK, it’s only the busiest time of year for sign-ups for my annual  Women At Woodstock Workshop Retreat for Women Over 50 and my Women At Woodstock Writers Retreat. No matter that I received more than a few emails, Facebook messages, and phone calls from women from all over the country saying “Hey, I tried to register but your site won’t open for me!” I mean, why be upset? What-ever…

So why did this happen? No reason. Well, there is a reason, a sort of conspiracy theory reason, but I don’t care if you think it’s crazy, I’m sticking to it.

I blame Google. They did it, I’m sure of it.

Here’s the thing. A year ago (kudos to me, thank you), I paid for and agonized through the process of adding SSL certificates to all of my websites. (This process never, I mean never goes smoothly. It’s a morass of disjointed steps and DNS zone file settings and all kinds of whatnot.) So what are SSL certificates and why did I want them? Well, when you have an SSL certificate on your site, it’s given the seal of approval by the yet-to-be-identified powers-that-be as “officially” safe. And everybody knows it because your URL will start with “https://” rather than the plain old crummy “http://.” And – icing on the cake – everyone sees a spiffy green padlock to the left of your URL in the browser bar, making you look so special.

So sometime this year, Google announced that as of July 1, they would start to do what we web developers call Google shaming. As of July 1, Google would start showing text or symbols in front of those low-class “http://” URLs, indicating that they weren’t safe and someone might be trying to steal your information and you shouldn’t go there. Run away!

But Google said, “Hey, website owners, you don’t have to have an SSL certificate. Just a suggestion, really…”

Sure. Right.

But I had no worries, right? I was sitting pretty. I was an SSL Certificate Old-Timer. I was way ahead of the game. I was set.

Except that on or about July 1 (notice the criminal indictment-y sound of that?) suddenly my URLs were not only stripped of their reassuring “https://” and pretty green padlocks, the sites would not open on Edge or Safari. Like, at all. Only on Chrome. Which is owned by Google. On those other (hint hint wink wink: not as good as Chrome) browsers, the visitor got routed to an ugly page of dire warnings. Was this a new marketing tactic to make everyone abandon other browsers in favor of Chrome? Hm…

I spent a couple hours this morning finally fixing the problem with my hosting company. Basically, we had to remove all the certificates and start over, and the hosting company did some mysterious removals of certain files and recalibrations of settings. I don’t even understand what they did, and I hate that I don’t understand. But I think they couldn’t actually explain it to me because what they really did was, they called some super secret number for Google and, with hand cupped over the mouthpiece, they whispered, “Hey, you’ve gotta remove the shaming from this angry woman’s websites. She’s good. She got her SSL certificates a year ago already. You’ve gotta back off.”

That’s what I think happened. Like I said, I’m sticking to my story.

I’m frustrated and I’m angry and I don’t know how many women gave up on registering for the Women At Woodstock Workshop Weekend or Writers Retreat, but at least my websites aren’t “My Stupid Websites” anymore. They’re back to being Ann V. Baker and Women At Woodstock and see the pretty green padlocks? Hey, you can trust us.

Of course, you always could trust us, but, you know, what-ever…

Thanks for listening.

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