Google users experienced a widespread service disruption for just over an hour on Thursday evening that affected the company’s email, YouTube and Google documents services.
The outages seemed to be focused around the eastern coast of the United States, according to Downdetector, a website that tracks internet disruptions. The Downdetector heat maps for Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, Google’s search engine and other Google services showed a significant number of people having trouble accessing those websites starting at around 8:50 p.m. Eastern.
The services seemed to be working normally by around 10 p.m. Google did not provide a reason for the disruption. The company is investigating the cause of the outage and has ruled out a cyberattack, said a person with knowledge of the situation, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
On its online dashboard, Google said at 9:30 p.m. Eastern that it was “aware of a problem with Gmail affecting a significant subset of its users.” It posted a similar message for Google Calendar and its videoconferencing service. An update at 10:07 p.m. Eastern said the issues had been resolved. The company apologized for the inconvenience.
But the disruptions raised anxiety among people already tense about technology’s role ahead of the Nov. 3 election and the heavy dependence 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 technology giant for its computing infrastructure.
Occasional outages are common for many web-based services, including some that last many hours. In June 2019, more than a dozen Google services — including YouTube, Gmail and others — were disrupted for several hours by what the Silicon Valley company said were “high levels of network congestion.”
On social media, people across the world expressed frustration — and some amusement — at the brief loss on Thursday of such seemingly indispensable services.
“What else could go wrong,” one Google user, Kyoko Kitamura, wrote on Twitter, next to an image of a Google error page. “Gmail, Google Drive, all down. Looks like it’s down worldwide? Thanks 2020.”
The loss of the online educational service Google Classroom — used by many people forced to study remotely — was a particular source of consternation.
“Personally I love it when Google Classroom goes down just at the moment when my kids are trying to upload their homework, so everyone freaks out and screams at me when I can’t fix it,” another user, Vanessa Wyeth, wrote on Twitter, in a lament echoed by many others dealing with remote schooling.
“Never thought I’d reach a point in my life where Gmail and Drive being down would give me this level of anxiety,” another person, with the handle “CTneversleeps,” wrote on Twitter. “This is peak adulthood.”
Still others found humor in the high anxiety prompted by the outages. “GMail is down the apocalypse has finally arrived,” Max Burns, a Democratic strategist and columnist, wrote on Twitter.