GMail down: Google is letting us know they are in charge

Tue 24 February 2009 13:41, Bas van den Beld

GMail down: Google is letting us know they are in charge

Big troubles in internet paradise today when during the morning the Google Mail service GMail went down. Twitter was overloaded with people complaining or asking question about the status of GMail.

Within a very short time it became clear that most internet marketeers and search marketeers rely on GMail for their day to day jobs. And that when Google goes down, they go down.

The number of responses and the kind of responses we saw revives the discussion: are we depending on Google to much? How can one company stop an entire business?

Google's response
Forums got filled with complaints and as said Twitter was flouded with people talking about the problem.But how did Google respond? With all the online possibilities you would expect that Google was all over the place explaining what happened, or at least telling the crowd they were working on it. Google did respond, but very summarily.

Google responded only on their support page with this text: "We're aware of a problem with Gmail affecting a number of users. This problem occurred at approximately 1.30AM Pacific Time. We're working hard to resolve this problem and will post updates as we have them. We apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused."

On some discussion groups they responded "We’re aware of a problem with Gmail affecting a small subset of users. The affected users are unable to access Gmail. We will provide an update by February 24, 2009 6:30 AM PST detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change." and when they got it up again they simply stated "The problem with Gmail should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support."

Furthermore there was a unofficial statement on Pocket lint by a Google spokesman who said they 'weren't sure what the problem' was. Which in other words means: just wait.

UK SEO Dave Naylor, known not to be the biggest Google fan around, wondered how many people who use GMail actually would be backing up their GMail. His guess of 10 percent might be a bit too high.

On a quick survey we did on Twitter only very few responded they actually did back up their GMail account. And those who did were mostly users of Google Gears. Those who don't use Gears don't back up. A search on Twitter confirmes this. Most people 'forget' to back up their GMail. Just imagine what would happen if Google went down all the way...

Conclusion: forget e-mail all together?
So what conclusions can we draw from this short hick up in GMail? This GMail downtime and the malware flagging troubles just a couple of weeks ago makes one wonder: can we work without Google? If you look at the responses on the web you would almost say 'no' to that. On the other hand there were also a lot of people who actually got to work with their mail being down. So maybe we should all forget e-mail all together and start Twittering one another.


A big problem is that the online community seems to be depending on Google too much. With the service down for only a couple of hours the entire online community went crazy. The slow response by Google and the reactions on the web show us that Google is really in charge. They can do whatever they want because most of us are depending on them. That's a bit scary...

If you are that depended on one company you can get in big trouble when things 'really' go bad. This is not only the dependance on Google, but also on services from Twitter, Apple or Microsoft. Just imagine if a combination of those services went down. I'm really afraid people would start killing  themselves...

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Comments (1)


  • Fun that you blogged about it. What I think is the same problem I have noticed before while other "parts of internet" havent.

    I came to theori that it is (and today) Google pushing out quite large amount of data to their distributed parts. That is the Google-server quite a lot of ISP:s have.

    Did you do a traceroute or similar to Gmail during the downtime?

    Di 24 feb 2009, 19:22


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