Gmail issues exacerbated by Google's openness

The Web was rife with reports about yet another Gmail outage this week, but was the latest glitch worth all the virtual ink thrown at it? Not really, says the the AP. Gmail's latest outage lasted less than 30 minutes for most of the tiny sliver of users affected, but since the problem was publicized on Google's new Apps status dashboard, word got around fast and reporters and bloggers pounced.

The AP presented some context for the problem:

The outage occurred around 2 a.m. Pacific time Tuesday, with most of the affected users regaining access to their e-mail within 30 minutes. A "small subset" of Gmail's more than 100 million users were locked out of their e-mail until early Wednesday morning, according to Google.

But while the outage was relatively small, especially compared with the far more serious glitch Gmail experienced late last month, the resulting reports made it seem at least on par in terms of users affected and downtime. And that's just because Google is now providing an easy view into its service uptimes via the dashboard.

It's a double-edged sword: Prior to the dashboard, most users attacked Google for a lack of transparency; after its debut, even the smallest outages are easy to see, track and report on. And that means that other, less open online services can sometimes seem more reliable, since their glitches aren't as readily apparent. As the AP says:

Other major providers of free e-mail services aren't as transparent about their outages. Microsoft Corp. offers a help center with a community board where users can report problems. A quick check of that board late Wednesday found numerous complaints about Microsoft's e-mail service being unavailable, with some users asserting they had been cut off from their accounts for three days. Microsoft responded with a post that the service was having "login issues."

So actually, the problem isn't Google's openness, but just that everyone isn't used to it. As time goes on, and users see how knowing about every outage--no matter how small--actually provides them with better service, the pros of openness will begin to outweigh the cons. Eventually.

* * *

Like this post? Visit the Google Subnet home page for more news, blogs and podcasts.

More blog posts from Google Subnet:

Sign up for the weekly Google newsletter. (Click on News/Google News Alert.)

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

Take IDG’s 2020 IT Salary Survey: You’ll provide important data and have a chance to win $500.