Two major outages at Google occurred in December, which saw almost all of the company’s services go down, including Gmail, YouTube, Drive, Meet, and Docs. It also affected particular features of the company’s Android operating system, with mobile users unable to use apps such as Photos and Maps.
Users trying to access several Google services were met with error messages for almost an hour, although its search engine and associated advertising appeared to remain online. YouTube’s website was replaced with a picture of a monkey holding a hammer, and the message: “Something went wrong.”
According to the company, the global authentication system outage which affected most consumer-facing products was caused by a bug in the automated quota management system impacting the Google User ID Service. This worldwide system failure prevented users from logging into their accounts and authenticating all cloud services. The bug essentially decreased the capacity of the Google central ID system, causing the system to struggle to verify the authentication of user requests.
The initial outage lasted for around an hour, but as soon as it was fixed, another outage struck taking down Gmail for approximately seven hours. Gmail and YouTube together have over 3.5 billion global users, and that’s without counting the users of its other services.
With a company as expansive as Google, the outages caused a significant stir online and highlighted the dramatic extent to which many are reliant on Google services, especially as people navigate working, studying, and socializing remotely.
Luckily, the December 14 outage only affected early risers. By 7:52 AM EST it was under control, which is a relief considering that during working hours, a full hour of down time for the majority of Google’s services would have been a catastrophe with many people relying on the company’s services for their day-to-day activities.
The second outage on December 15 struck at a more inopportune time. Though the issues were resolved shortly before 7 PM EST. At the peak, the outage affected nearly 18,000 users, according to monitoring site Downdetector.
However, the implications of the outages go beyond upsetting users. With services down for even as little as an hour, Google also lost out on millions in revenue. Tech Radar estimated that Google’s losses as a result of the blackout were in the region of $2.3 million.