Sorry for the blogging delay. I was on vacation and also rather busy with the announced acquisition of VeriSign's SSL business by Symantec.
Anyway, in a recent post about increased attention to sensitive information offered outside SSL protection, I referenced Google's announced intention to offer SSL on Gmail content. Apparently Google has bigger plans in mind than just that, as exemplified by last week's decision to offer Google search under SSL as well. Google isn't the first engine to offer SSL-protected search, but with its hugely dominant market share, Google has much greater potential impact with this decision than any other search engine.
The privacy value of offering SSL-based search is clear. It does appear that there will be a consequence for site operators, who will no longer be able to see the key words behind the searches that brought them visitors. That will diminish the market intelligence that sites use to optimize their SEO campaigns and (less cynically) to determine what content is most interesting to site visitors. Today while a very small percentage of search traffic is under SSL, that lost information isn't a really big deal. But imagine a day when Google and its competitors are defaulting to an SSL-on search. Under those circumstances a primary source of SEO intelligence has gone away.