Brief Gmail Outage Shows Us All How Dependent We Are On One Company

Some time around noon ET today (some say it was earlier; Google says it was later), many Gmail users were unable to access their accounts and instead received a message reading “Temporary Error (500).” As to be expected, the world came perilously close to being engulfed in rioting, looting and other fun stuff.

Twitter immediately exploded with people trying to out-joke each other about Gmail being down. Meanwhile, Google posted updates about how it was looking into the matter and would y’all just go have lunch while we fix this.

We here at Consumerist HQ access our tipline inbox via Gmail, meaning we are just now seeing all the tips submitted about Gmail being down.

In all, the problem seemed to last about 1-2 hours, during which we should all have been reflecting about putting all your communications eggs in one basket. But now things appear to be getting back to normal, which means most folks will have moved on to more pressing matters by dinner time.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Dan T. says:

    I get my personal email through the servers of my web hosting provider rather than joining all the lemmings who flocked to Gmail instead… stuff like this makes me think I’ve made a good choice.

    • Vox Republica says:

      So your web hosting provider has 100% uptime?

      • nishioka says:

        Nope. Nobody does. And anybody who thinks they do are idiots, or liars.

      • BooBee says:

        My provider has had just about 99% up time and I recall the time Google had accounts lose ALL their email & simply said, “Oooops!”. I would not have been happy to see my emails gone and I even store saved emails on my web server with no problems some even years old.

      • pot_roast says:

        At least with his web provider, there’s someone that he can call and talk to about the issue.

        That’s one of the issues I have with Gmail. You pretty much get *NO* support whatsoever with it. Sure, it’s free.. but free comes with a price tag sometimes.

        • crazydavythe1st says:

          But what do you call support? If I call my ISP during an outage, all I get is an estimate of when service will be restored. Which is exactly what Google provided, except that I don’t get the warm and fuzzies that I get from calling a support line.

    • BooBee says:

      Agreed! I have my own domain that has been very reliable for the past 10 years (8yrs with current provider). My email interruptions can be counted on my hand which is great for 8 years of service.

      I only use gmail (Google) for calendar syncing and any Market purchase receipts but even then I have that setup to forward to my personal account.

    • crazydavythe1st says:

      Gmail probably has better uptime than most ISPs. It just doesn’t make national news when they go down.

    • Not Given says:

      Gmail handles my ISP’s mail service. I didn’t notice any difference.

  2. nicless says:

    Despite the fact that I don’t get my email via Google, it could happen to any site even a personal one so it’s hard to point and laugh and feel superior. But I’m sure many people have/will.

  3. Bort says:

    all your e-mail are belong to us?

  4. aja175 says:

    Oh noes! Gmail went down for an hour! How will humanity survive without the multitude of cat pictures being emailed around!?

  5. phobos512 says:

    I use gmail for personal mail but for whatever reason was not affected by the outage this morning (I was actually using gmail at the time I heard about the outage).

  6. Golfer Bob says:

    Dependent on one company? Like Facebook?

    • Laura Northrup says:

      Facebook does useful things? I thought it was just my relatives’ new medium to pass on urban legends and racist e-mail forwards.

      • Golfer Bob says:

        You’re not the only one…

      • Pagan wants a +1 button says:

        Oh, come, now. It is also used to “raise awareness”. I know I don’t feel complete if I haven’t gotten at least one whining demand per week to “copy this to your status for at least one hour! Most people will think they are too cool to do it, but let’s see!”

  7. Torchwood says:

    I have my e-mail hosted at Google Apps, and my DNS record is properly configured so that it would hit one of the several backup servers that Google has.

  8. JohnJ says:

    No, I’m not dependant on Google for anything. My primary e-mail addresses are, and my backup e-mail addresses are from my Internet Service Provider. If Google Search were to go offline it wouldn’t matter, because Bing does an excellent job.

  9. Flik says:

    Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

    • outshined says:

      Ok so here’s what’s hilarious about that. The same time this outage happened, my mom sent me an email of dogs and cats cuddling and I thought that’s what crashed my email. !!

      • Golfer Bob says:

        And then we wonder why the USPS is going broke. It’s all your mother’s fault.

        • scoosdad says:

          Can you imagine an email service run by the USPS? [shudders at the thought]

          I get this mental image of Newman sitting at a console cackling madly as he pushes buttons randomly.

  10. ansjc09 says:

    Gmail went down? My account is/was fine.

    • vorpalette says:

      Same. I was getting emails from both of my gmail accounts on my phone during that time.

    • CalicoGal says:

      mine too

    • erinpac says:

      Same. From the Google link: “This issue is affecting less than 2% of the Google Mail user base. The affected users are unable to access Google Mail.”

      So less than 2% of the mailboxes, and just the mailboxes, for an hour.

  11. Malik says:

    You get what you pay for

    • captadam says:

      I’d say I get far more than I pay for.

      Oh! But there are ads. The horror!

      • Malik says:

        That’s pretty much what I figure. Google makes no warrantees regarding their services. No assurances that they will be available. It’s not likeyou are not paying for GMail, you have nothing to complain about.

      • jeb says:


  12. tungstencoil says:

    I host my own mail server at home.

    No… seriously… I do…

    • scoosdad says:

      I would too and even have the hardware and software to do it, but I don’t have a static IP, won’t pay the extra money for a business class account from my ISP just to get one, and I’ve had hassles in the past with dynamic IP tracking services when they stop working. It’s just not worth it.

      See my post below for what I’m doing at the moment. I don’t mind paying someone to do a good job on my behalf, and it’s not a lot of money either.

  13. Jawaka says:

    So how is Gmail being down for a few hours any different than any other ISPs email servers being down for a few hours. I don’t get how this is an example of “how dependent we are on one company”

  14. ILoveBacon says:

    Reminds me of an Onion video I saw a few months ago. Google shut itself down temporarily just to show how powerful they are.

  15. Jim M says:

    I use Gmail and my own web host, everything is downloaded each minute. If I lose my net connection(have 4 wired(2) wireless(2), I’m going to assume SKYNET and run. :)

  16. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I wasn’t on the computer at the moment; I didn’t notice.

  17. scoosdad says:

    I’m in the process of switching internet providers so this time I decided that rather to go through the pain of changing my email address everywhere and making all my contacts do the same, I’d buy an available domain name and arrange for email service that I can keep as long as I need to no matter who I buy internet access from.

    It was about $13 a year for the domain name for ten years (including anonymizing my WHOIS info), and then $2.50 a year for each email address (I bought ten), with unlimited storage on their email server if I cared to do that, which I don’t, I download to my own PC and delete off the server.

    So far I’d say it was worth it. I’ve got it on my PC, I have webmail access, and I’ve installed it on my phone and tablet. I can’t vouch yet for the reliability factor, but they post any and all service incidents on an easy to find place on their site (and actually admit when an issue was caused by an error in their software updates!) and have customer service reps in the US available 24/7. One of them actually called me last night just to make sure I was satisfied and everything was working out OK. You just don’t get that with the free email providers (or with some of the cableco’s or other ISP’s).

  18. FLConsumer says:

    and this is why I keep our e-mail in-house. With redundant servers, in different locations, on multiple carriers. Even our offices are all serviced by multiple carriers on different technologies. Is it failure-PROOF? No. But seeing 5 9’s (99.999%) uptime with this strategy.

    • nybiker says:

      I see you are another smart person who believes in the 6 P’s – Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. (I wrote it out so that others can learn it).
      A friend of mine today told me that his Verizon DSL service had an outage. He pointed out that he’s wondering how many people in his neighborhood would be complaining to Verizon about the outage on the day that one’s tax filing is due. I told him, they don’t promise 100% uptime, so their complaints are going to fall on deaf ears.

  19. cashxx says:

    Not here because I won’t use Google’s crap. Only thing they have made that is worth using is for searching and for ariel views and stuff. The rest I wouldn’t trust them with my data or phone use, etc. Barely trust them doing searches, especially after them bypasses security in Safari and IE to allow third party advertisers to store cookies on people’s machines. Don’t trust Google and never will!!!

  20. larissa_j says:

    “Brief Gmail Outage Shows Us All How Dependent We Are On One Company”

    Been at the kool aid again?

  21. Levk says:

    Google Mail was down? LOL I did not know… really I did not.. My GMail account only for Google related things so if it goes down who cares >.>

  22. brshoemak says:

    ‘Just about 99%’ uptime is pretty bad for ISP standards if that’s what it truly is. Uptime at an ISP should start at three 9’s (99.9%) and go from there. 99% equates to 3.5 days of downtime a year. Just sayin’