On Monday, nearly half of all Gmail users were affected by a bug that caused delays in email delivery and difficulty downloading attachments. Users took to social networks to complain about the problem, which the company acknowledged around 10:30 a.m. EST, according to its Google Apps Status site. Google finally resolved the problem nearly 12 hours later.
The glitch was significant not only because of its duration, but because it affected not only users of Gmail's free version, but enterprise users that pay for the service as part of the Google Apps suite. According to the company, about 29% of messages users received were delayed by an average of 2.6 seconds, though 1.5% of messages were delayed more than two hours.
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The company later apologized for the duration of the delays. "We're aware that prompt email delivery is an important part of the Gmail experience, and today's experience fell far short of our standards," the company said.
Sabrina Farmer, Google's senior site reliability engineering manager for Gmail, said in a post on Gmail's blog that the delivery delays were triggered by a dual network failure. "This is a very rare event in which two separate, redundant network paths both stop working at the same time," she said. "The two network failures were unrelated, but in combination they reduced Gmail's capacity to deliver messages to users."
Google also announced plans for a three-pronged approach to avoid a repeat of the incident. This includes ensuring sufficient network capacity, making Gmail message delivery more resilient to a network capacity shortfall, and updating its internal practices to more quickly and effectively respond to network issues.
On Thursday, Google experienced yet another major problem, causing panic among users of Hangouts and Google Talk. According to reports, messages that users typed into Google Talk or Hangouts' chat feature were being sent erroneously to other users. Google acknowledged this problem at 4:32 a.m. EST, according to its Google Talk Service site, and announced 10 hours later that it had identified the problem and was applying a fix. It, too, affected both paid and free Google Apps users.
"There was an issue today that affected some people using Google's instant messaging services," the company said in a statement. "We have since identified the problem, stopped it from recurring and are currently working on a fix. We're very sorry to anyone affected."
One bright light in Google's week: The company marked its 15th anniversary Thursday with a revision to its search engine algorithm, called "Hummingbird." The update expands Google's use of its Knowledge Graph and adds a comparison tool.