Most Gmail users were unable to get to their accounts on Tuesday as an outage struck the Google e-mail service. Google said service returned to normal at about 2:40 p.m. PDT for most users.
"We're aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a majority of users. The affected users are unable to access Google Mail," Google said at 12:53 p.m. PDT on its Google Apps status dashboard after it discovered the problem.
However, hours later, the problems persisted for many, and the Twittersphere was abuzz with griping.
The problems appeared to affect the Web-based version of the service, but affected accounts could be reached--at least sporadically--using third-party e-mail software that used the IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, interface. Google provided instructions on how to do that here.
Gmail is used by tens of millions of people, and its fast growth carried it past AOL's e-mail service into third place, according to ComScore.
Google didn't immediately comment on the scope and cause of the outage. It's not the first Gmail outage this year.
Customers of Google Apps Premier Edition, who pay $50 per user per year, get extensions of their service contracts, if their services are down for longer than a certain duration. The dashboard showed only mail to have troubles, not other Google Apps services, such as Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Docs.
Outages pose problems for Google, as it tries to persuade companies to buy into its cloud-computing vision, in which applications are hosted on the Internet rather than on corporate computers. But Google argues that its service availability is competitive with most organizations' abilities to run their own e-mail servers.
Updated at 1:50 p.m. PDT: Some users reported being able to access their Gmail accounts from the iGoogle home page, but this didn't work for everyone we briefly surveyed in the office, and it seemed sporadically available this way for others. Google said it would "provide an update by September 1, 2009, 2:16:00 PM UTC-7 (PDT), detailing when we expect to resolve the problem" on its Apps Status page.
Updated at 1:58 p.m. PDT: How widespread is this outage? Please let us know if you're down, and where you are, in the comments below.
Updated 2:03 p.m. PDT: Google apologized for the outage on the Gmail blog and also said the problem was affecting the company internally.
"We know many of you are having trouble accessing Gmail right now--we are too, and we definitely feel your pain. We don't usually post about minor issues here (the Apps status dashboard and the Gmail Help Center are usually where this kind of information goes). Because this is impacting so many of you, we wanted to let you know we're currently looking into the issue and hope to have more info to share here shortly."
Updated 2:20 p.m. PDT: Google still doesn't know what's wrong, according to the latest update to the Apps Status dashboard. "We are continuing to investigate this issue. We will provide an update by September 1, 2009, 3:13:00 PM UTC-7 detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Also, at this time, Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook (applies only to Google Apps Premier and Edu customers) is not available."
Updated at 2:35 p.m. PDT: A Google representative declined to elaborate on exactly what was causing the issues but pointed interested parties to the Apps Status dashboard and the Gmail blog for further updates, which the company hopes to issue soon. Corporate users of Gmail through the Google Apps program--a key set of customers, as Google hopes to grow that business--as well as individual users, are affected, he confirmed.
Some Gmail users are starting to report the service coming back for them, but not everyone is as lucky. Believe it or not, this reporter (Tom Krazit) has it working in one Firefox tab and inaccessible in another.
Updated 2:44 p.m. PDT: Google posted an update to its Apps Status page about a minute after we got off the phone with the company, saying all is well.
"The problem with Google Mail should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience, and thank you for your patience and continued support."
So, what happened? We'll attempt to find out.
This story was corrected at 2:41 p.m. PDT to include information from the correct Google Apps Dashboard incident.