Google is taking a stand against one kind of net neutrality in a way that most will agree is a good thing: The super-sized search engine will give secure websites priority in its search results, giving preferential placing to company URLs that are encrypted.
These sites are identified by the added "S" (for secure) on their web addresses, seen as "HTTPS" instead of just "HTTP." HTTP stands for "Hypertext Transfer Protocol."
These sites offer additional preventive encryption security against hackers, thereby keeping site users' data safer. The HTTPS protocol is also known as HTTP over TLS (Transport Layer Security). TLS includes Secure Sockets Layers (SSL), which is a security protocol that requires certificates to verify the authenticity and security of the site.
Google's decision to favor these sites will not be manifested for the time being as having a radical impact on search results rankings. The company is easing into the policy, partly to give time for more webmasters to get their "S" together.
"We're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it's only a very lightweight signal -- affecting fewer than 1 percent of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we'd like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web," Google wrote in a blog post.
Google's move toward prioritizing encrypted websites is part of "HTTPS Everywhere," an initiative the company announced at Google I/O in June, in which Google encourages and offers assistance to webmasters in making their sites secure.
Google will be publishing tips to make TLS adoption easier. The company already lists some ideas for enhancing security properly, including recommending the use of 2048-bit key certificates, using relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain, allowing indexing of pages by search engines where possible.
Google also recently launched Project Zero, in which the company is hiring hackers to team up with Google to track down bugs and malware that threaten Internet security. As described in Tech Times, Google is also using Project Zero "to protect its advertising revenue by safeguarding its links to third-party sites and building user confidence in the security of those links."
The company is also developing an encryption tool, End-to-End, as a plug-in for its Chrome web browser. The plug-in will encrypt data leaving the Chrome browser until the message's intended recipient decrypts it, thus making it impervious to hacking while in transit.