Google Service Outage Stirs Tweet Storm

Gmail, Google Search, Google Maps, Google Analytics, YouTube, AdSense, and Blogger experienced outages Thursday morning, according to discontented Twitter users.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

May 14, 2009

3 Min Read

Google suffered widespread outages Thursday morning across several of its services, a situation that the company reports has been dealt with.

"The issue affecting some Google services has been resolved," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mail. "We're sorry for the inconvenience, and we'll share more details soon."

Twitter users reported the outage and voiced their discontent by the minute on the #googlefail channel. Among the complaints, snarky comments, and spam could be found a few tweets from reporters trying to frame Google's downtime as meaningful: They sought comments from Twitter users who had lost income or work time -- presumably as a consequence of the outage rather than as a result of using Twitter during work hours.

Various reports indicated that Gmail, Google Search, Google Maps, Google Analytics, YouTube, AdSense, and Blogger were affected, but Google has not provided a definitive list of affected services.

The company's Apps Status Dashboard, which provides information about the status of Google Apps, indicates that Gmail experienced problems Thursday and that those problems may have affected other applications.

An 8:23 a.m. PDT update says, "We're aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a small subset of users. The affected users are unable to access Google Mail." The update also notes that the issue "may also be affecting other services." A 9:39 a.m. PDT update reports that the problem has been resolved.

That last notable Gmail outage occurred on May 8, when the service was inaccessible for a limited number of users for about 20 minutes.

In February, Google apologized for a prolonged Gmail outage and extended account subscriptions for Google Apps Premier customers for 15 days, as per the Gmail service-level agreement. Other notable Gmail outages occurred last year in April, August, and October.

Initial reports about the outage Thursday attributed the problem to AT&T's network, but an AT&T spokesman said that wasn't the case. "We looked into the matter thoroughly," an AT&T spokesperson said in an e-mail. "We have not identified any specific problems in our network that could have caused the reported outage."

UPDATE: In a blog post at 12:15 p.m. PDT, Google senior VP of engineering Urs Hoelzle attributed the problem to a traffic bottleneck.

"An error in one of our systems caused us to direct some of our Web traffic through Asia, which created a traffic jam," he said. "As a result, about 14% of our users experienced slow services or even interruptions. We've been working hard to make our services ultrafast and 'always on,' so it's especially embarrassing when a glitch like this one happens. We're very sorry that it happened, and you can be sure that we'll be working even harder to make sure that a similar problem won't happen again. "

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About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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