My Favorite Mistake

Article excerpt

Marissa Mayer on the day she 'broke' the Internet.

Interview by Jessica Bennett

It was my job to oversee everything that had to do with Google search: what users saw on the homepage, and all the code written behind it, right down to the very last character. But we accidentally introduced a stray "/"--a slash--on our servers. It was the slash heard round the world. Suddenly, every page on the Internet was popping up with a big red warning: THIS SITE MAY HARM YOUR COMPUTER. You couldn't access anything on Google. It was as if the Internet was broken.

It was 8:27 a.m. on a Saturday in 2009. I was in Minneapolis visiting my brother. I woke up late and was racing around my hotel room trying to get ready. There was a knock on the door. I was sure it was my mom, telling me I was late. But it was my friend Jini. "Yes, you're late to breakfast," she said calmly. "But also: Google is down. I think you might want to deal with that first."

I ran to my laptop, and my phone began ringing off the hook. I was getting emails from users all over the world, with subject lines like "GOOGLE IS BROKEN." #GoogMayhem started trending on Twitter. I work well under pressure, but I began to have this horrifying sense of just how many millions of people were looking at their computer screens thinking, "What is going on? …