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beatlesreverseToday’s Gmail outage illustrates just how tolerant the new realtime architecture is to individual service failure. The initial surprise at the comprehensive nature of the flatlining may have caused some significant degree of marketing damage, my bet is that the end result will be a boost to the service’s popularity, and with it, realtime services including Twitter and FriendFeed.

For my part, moving over to FriendFeed direct messaging and private groups immediately took the outage offline for the work I was doing. The fact that traffic slowed dramatically on Gmail (IMAP and POP were still up) meant there was little to miss or catch up on. My iPhone let me know that I was missing very little, and FriendFeed aggregated both the Twitter flow that documented the extent of the outage as well as the message and blog traffic that explained the outage’s contours.

Within minutes it became clear how little I now depend on email in general. TechCrunch’s internal traffic is over Yammer, and FriendFeed’s realtime chat function has already scooped up most of the collaborative chatter. In recent weeks we’ve been readying a service to be released alongside the return of live video streaming of the Gillmor Gang, and the development team switched over to private groups (what used to be called rooms) a few days ago. Email continues to be a valuable source of one-to-one messaging in near realtime, but the collaborative filtering of social graph-based alerts is slowly but surely taking over from RSS readers.

Taken from a 10-thousand foot view provided by the outage, Gmail becomes a critical service that can be patched around with just a few key services, nailing up direct messaging and private groups configured to send email alerts of the resultant rerouted messages back to email when the outage is over. After 5 minutes or so, the problem went away from an operational perspective. Twitter outages have been more disruptive for their impact on information flow, and Google has learned valuable lessons which will reduce the likelihood of the current event significantly. We didn’t dodge a bullet as much as catch it in our teeth.

  • http://fudge.org Jay Cuthrell

    “Within minutes it became clear how little I now depend on email in general.”

    Exactly. Many were forced back to their closed silos of Facebook to dive into the Inbox or the stream there vs. waiting for a “notification”. I’ve been critical of NOREPLY and DO-NOT-REPLY email addresses for some time and will continue to be. However, I’m going to have to address the concerns from today on shifting from well connected islands in federation to what shifting to landmasses portends — in thinking through what it means down the road I’m still bullish on the survivability of Wave concepts.

  • http://fudge.org Jay Cuthrell

    “Within minutes it became clear how little I now depend on email in general.”

    Exactly. Many were forced back to their closed silos of Facebook to dive into the Inbox or the stream there vs. waiting for a “notification”. I’ve been critical of NOREPLY and DO-NOT-REPLY email addresses for some time and will continue to be. However, I’m going to have to address the concerns from today on shifting from well connected islands in federation to what shifting to landmasses portends — in thinking through what it means down the road I’m still bullish on the survivability of Wave concepts.

  • http://wittman.org Micah Wittman

    Agreed.

    My Reaction: by jumping on search.twitter I found a tip-off that gmail was still accessible via iGoogle (something I hardly touch, so I had no idea [saw reports that IMAP was up too]). I then pushed out a message to my friendfeed network regarding that bit of info and included a link to Google’s official blog post “status update”.

    I didn’t _really_ need anything off my gmail account at the time, but wanted to check it out of habit.

    Also, great closing line, Steve.

  • http://wittman.org Micah Wittman

    Agreed.

    My Reaction: by jumping on search.twitter I found a tip-off that gmail was still accessible via iGoogle (something I hardly touch, so I had no idea [saw reports that IMAP was up too]). I then pushed out a message to my friendfeed network regarding that bit of info and included a link to Google’s official blog post “status update”.

    I didn’t _really_ need anything off my gmail account at the time, but wanted to check it out of habit.

    Also, great closing line, Steve.

  • PXLated

    Sounds like too much monkey business. And what if Twitter goes down and FriendFeed becomes extinct? The fragility of real-time. Will it ever be as reliable as the old system?

  • PXLated

    Sounds like too much monkey business. And what if Twitter goes down and FriendFeed becomes extinct? The fragility of real-time. Will it ever be as reliable as the old system?

  • MIMETZ

    SO YOU’RE SAYING THAT EMAIL WILL, OR MAYBE COULD, BE REPLACED AT SOME TIME IN THE FUTURE (OR MAYBE JUST AUGMENTED?) BY A COMBINATION OF IM, FF/TWITTER AND PRIVATE GROUPS. SEEMS LIKE A REASONABLE AND STRAIGHTFORWARD PROPOSITION.

  • MIMETZ

    SO YOU’RE SAYING THAT EMAIL WILL, OR MAYBE COULD, BE REPLACED AT SOME TIME IN THE FUTURE (OR MAYBE JUST AUGMENTED?) BY A COMBINATION OF IM, FF/TWITTER AND PRIVATE GROUPS. SEEMS LIKE A REASONABLE AND STRAIGHTFORWARD PROPOSITION.

  • mimetz

    sorry for the unintended caps:(

  • mimetz

    sorry for the unintended caps:(

  • http://www.twitter.com/kriscobbaert k

    Businesses will come together in email inboxes for a long time to come.
    It’s not getting better.
    Phonecalls, IM and realtime chatservices help businesses collaborate but there’s always a follow up email that makes it kind of official.
    As for Gmail, you got to be free, it’s free and bad news is good news so the outage is a win for Google.

    I slightly disagree about the collaborative filtering done by our friends. I don’t see it taking over RSS readers. I don’t want to be limited to what my friends are filtering.

    • Steve Gillmor

      I didn’t say friends, I said social graph-based. Many in the 3 degrees of separation of follow clouds are not necessarily friends ut important filters based on who they follow.

      • http://www.twitter.com/kriscobbaert k

        My mistake.

  • http://www.twitter.com/kriscobbaert k

    Businesses will come together in email inboxes for a long time to come.
    It’s not getting better.
    Phonecalls, IM and realtime chatservices help businesses collaborate but there’s always a follow up email that makes it kind of official.
    As for Gmail, you got to be free, it’s free and bad news is good news so the outage is a win for Google.

    I slightly disagree about the collaborative filtering done by our friends. I don’t see it taking over RSS readers. I don’t want to be limited to what my friends are filtering.

    • Steve Gillmor

      I didn’t say friends, I said social graph-based. Many in the 3 degrees of separation of follow clouds are not necessarily friends ut important filters based on who they follow.

      • http://www.twitter.com/kriscobbaert k

        My mistake.

  • David

    The irony of this was that the Google engineers continued to use Wave as their way of merging real-time and email communication to work the problem with the ‘legacy’ email app…

  • David

    The irony of this was that the Google engineers continued to use Wave as their way of merging real-time and email communication to work the problem with the ‘legacy’ email app…

  • http://phideltacity.net/2009/09/gmail-outage-outs-the-cloud-issue/ phideltacity » GMail outage outs the Cloud-Issue

    […] have suspected before-hand. In fact the world has pretty much gone on as before simply doing a smooth failover. This means that we know how to fail over, but it also debunks a myth that has been used my […]

  • http://phideltacity.net/2009/09/gmail-outage-outs-the-cloud-issue/ phideltacity » GMail outage outs the Cloud-Issue

    […] have suspected before-hand. In fact the world has pretty much gone on as before simply doing a smooth failover. This means that we know how to fail over, but it also debunks a myth that has been used my […]

  • You Have a Tiny Penis

    Steve, recent studies reveal that tech journalists often overcompensate for certain physical inadequacies by writing page after page of buzzword-laden gobbledygook. On behalf of TechCrunch readers everywhere, I beg you to just suck it up and pay for a penis enlargement procedure and stop cluttering up TechCrunch with crap articles like this.

    • Tina Gillmor

      Well, I don’t usually “open my mouth” on a TCIT thread, especially if the author is Steve Gillmor, as it could be seen self-serving, bordering on masturbatory. So this time, I’m “on my knees” hoping and praying that Steve doesn’t give me the “shaft” for what I’m about about to say regarding the “endowment” in question.

      The anonymous author named “You Have a Tiny Penis” strikes me as the sort who needs to “bone up” on his vocabulary because he is clearly threatened by the big, frothy words Steve uses and this little fellow is unfamiliar with them. They scare him. Mr Anonymous even goes so far as to question my husbands manhood, or at least the size of it. Come on! I’m not the only one who knows that Steve has balls – BIG ones. And well, the rest of him is proportioned to serve them well.

      Why be like all the other morons who drone on and on about how Steve doesn’t know what he’s talking about just because you can’t figure out that social media is calling the “money shots” and is totally what enterprise IT is getting off on these days? You figure you’ll be original and use the word penis… cuz every decent comedian knows the word penis is completely and always funny. Bravo, you’ve “banged” us into a collective pee-in-our-pants frenzy. Uncontrollable ecstasy. Really. Oh, yeah, Baby. Do it more. You tell Steve to “suck it up”. I say, “suck on it!”

  • You Have a Tiny Penis

    Steve, recent studies reveal that tech journalists often overcompensate for certain physical inadequacies by writing page after page of buzzword-laden gobbledygook. On behalf of TechCrunch readers everywhere, I beg you to just suck it up and pay for a penis enlargement procedure and stop cluttering up TechCrunch with crap articles like this.

    • Tina Gillmor

      Well, I don’t usually “open my mouth” on a TCIT thread, especially if the author is Steve Gillmor, as it could be seen self-serving, bordering on masturbatory. So this time, I’m “on my knees” hoping and praying that Steve doesn’t give me the “shaft” for what I’m about about to say regarding the “endowment” in question.

      The anonymous author named “You Have a Tiny Penis” strikes me as the sort who needs to “bone up” on his vocabulary because he is clearly threatened by the big, frothy words Steve uses and this little fellow is unfamiliar with them. They scare him. Mr Anonymous even goes so far as to question my husbands manhood, or at least the size of it. Come on! I’m not the only one who knows that Steve has balls – BIG ones. And well, the rest of him is proportioned to serve them well.

      Why be like all the other morons who drone on and on about how Steve doesn’t know what he’s talking about just because you can’t figure out that social media is calling the “money shots” and is totally what enterprise IT is getting off on these days? You figure you’ll be original and use the word penis… cuz every decent comedian knows the word penis is completely and always funny. Bravo, you’ve “banged” us into a collective pee-in-our-pants frenzy. Uncontrollable ecstasy. Really. Oh, yeah, Baby. Do it more. You tell Steve to “suck it up”. I say, “suck on it!”

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