OAKLAND, Calif. – Google users experienced a widespread service disruption for just over an hour Thursday evening, affecting the company’s email, YouTube, and Google Docs services.
According to Downdetector, a website that records Internet disruptions, the outages appeared to be concentrated on the east coast of the United States. The Down Detector heatmaps for Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, the Google search engine, and other Google services showed that a significant number of people were having trouble accessing these websites from around 8:50 p.m. East.
Services appeared to be working normally around 10 p.m. Google has not given a reason for the malfunction. The company is investigating the cause of the failure and has ruled out a cyberattack, said a person with knowledge of the situation who was not allowed to speak publicly.
On its online dashboard, Google said it was 9:30 p.m. Eastern was “aware of an issue with Gmail that affects a significant subset of its users”. A similar message was posted for Google Calendar and its video conferencing service. An update at 10:07 p.m. Eastern said the issues had been resolved. The company apologized for the inconvenience.
However, the disruptions raised concerns among people who were already tense before the November 3 elections about the role of technology and the heavy reliance on online services for education, work and entertainment during the coronavirus pandemic. The outages also seemed to affect corporate customers of Google’s cloud computing service who rely on the tech giant for their computing infrastructure.
Occasional outages are common with many web-based services, including some that last for many hours. As of June 2019, more than a dozen Google services – including YouTube, Gmail, and others – were disturbed for several hours The Silicon Valley company said it was “high network congestion”.
On social media, people around the world expressed frustration – and somewhat amused – at the brief loss of such seemingly essential services on Thursday.
“What else could go wrong,” said a Google user, Kyoko Kitamura. wrote on Twitter, next to an image of a Google error page. “Gmail, Google Drive, everything down. Looks like it’s down worldwide? Thanks 2020.”
The loss of the online education service Google Classroom, which is used by many people forced to study remotely, was a particular source of dismay.
“Personally, I love it when Google Classroom goes down the moment my kids are trying to upload their homework. Everyone freaks out and yells at me when I can’t fix it,” says another user, Vanessa Wyeth. wrote on Twitter, in a lawsuit repeated by many others involved in distance learning.
“I never thought I’d get to a point in my life where Gmail and Drive wouldn’t be so fearful,” said another person in charge of “CTneversleeps”. wrote on twitter. “This is the highest adult age.”
Still others found humor in the high level of anxiety caused by the failures. “GMail is down, the apocalypse is finally here,” said Max Burns, a Democratic strategist and columnist. wrote on twitter.
Daisuke Wakabayashi reported from Oakland, California, and Michael Levenson from New York.