Google Search, Gmail, AdSense and several other Google services, including YouTube, were slow for a while Thursday and, in some instances, completely down. Google acknowledged the outage, said it was working on the matter, and the issue was resolved by midafternoon Eastern time.
Google explained the outage in a blog post comparing it to an airplane flight.
"Imagine if you were trying to fly from New York to San Francisco, but your plane was routed through an airport in Asia," said Urs Hoelzle, senior vice president of operations at Google. "And a bunch of other planes were sent that way, too, so your flight was backed up and your journey took so much longer than expected."
That's basically what happened to some Google users, according to the company, beginning at 10:48 a.m. Eastern time.
"An error in one of our systems caused us to direct some of our Web traffic through Asia, which created a traffic jam," Hoelzle said. "As a result, about 14 percent of our users experienced slow services or even interruptions."
The error messages began with Google News but didn't end there. Google's Apps Status dashboard then reported several service disruptions with Google Sites, Gmail and Calendar. Google said the glitch was embarrassing and apologized.
Not the First Time
Outages and interruptions in services have plagued the Internet search giant before. Just three months ago Google's Gmail service was down. Google addressed the issue in an official blog post, saying the company was alerted by its monitoring systems that Gmail consumer and business accounts worldwide could not get access to their e-mail.
While the outage wasn't long-lasting, its timing could be considered comical as just the day before Google was urging e-mail users to switch from their old accounts to Gmail.
Chad Parry, a Gmail engineer, tried convincing reluctant e-mail account holders to switch to Gmail by touting its migration services that transfer old contacts from other e-mail accounts to a new Gmail account.
A Large User Base
Gmail has a large user base. Between December 2007 and December 2008, the number of unique monthly visitors in the U.S. increased 43 percent from 20.8 million to 29.6 million, according to Internet tracking firm comScore.
During the same time, unique monthly visitors to Windows Live Hotmail dropped five percent, from 46.2 million to 44.6 million.
Google said it works hard to make its services "ultrafast" and "always on" and said after Thursday's glitch it will work even harder to make sure it doesn't happen again. "All planes are back on schedule now," Hoelzle said.