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Google explains cause of massive Gmail, Chrome outages

Published Dec 11th, 2012 7:07PM EST
Google Chrome Gmail Outage

Users took to social networks on Monday to vent their displeasure with Google (GOOG) following a 40-minute disruption of service affecting the company’s Chrome Web browser and Gmail service. It was previously unclear what caused the services to simultaneously crash and some suspected the company was hit with a denial-of-service attack. Google engineer Tim Steele took to the company’s developer forums to clear up the confusion and confirmed what some developers had already suspected: The reason for the crash had to do with the Google Sync servers getting overwhelmed following a change in the code, not a DDoS attack.

“It’s due to a backend service that sync servers depend on becoming overwhelmed, and sync servers responding to that by telling all clients to throttle all data types,” he said, noting that the “throttling” messed things up in the browser and caused it to crash.

Google Sync keeps bookmarks, extensions, apps and settings in the Chrome browser synchronized across a variety of devices and services. Along with Chrome and Gmail, the worldwide outage also affected Google Docs, Drive and Apps, all of which rely heavily on Google Sync.