Do you remember where you were when it happened? The morning the Gmail servers went down? I do. Like it was yesterday. (Editor’s note: It was.)I was sitting at my desk, minding my own inbox when, out of nowhere, the draft I’d been composing would not save. I pressed the button like two or three times. No matter how hard I clicked it, I could not get that thing safely into the cloud.
Sure, we’ve all been there. Experienced the occasional Gmail hiccup. I mean, know I have. Plenty of times. They’re all a little nerve-wracking, like “oh shit, maybe free email isn’t the best idea.” But usually it’s at home—and the router needs to be reset, or the cable modem needs to be powered down, or I’m accidentally on my neighbor’s slow-ass open network. But never at work. Never on the office business account.
And then it got stranger. I opened the draft in a separate window so I could survey the wreckage in my inbox. The messages were there, but—I could … not … open them.
I popped up the Gchat window where I’d been chatting with my sister to ask if she, too, was having problems with her Gmail, only to discover that GCHAT WAS DOWN, TOO!
My mind began to race. Was this an isolated incident? How would we find out about the Banana Republic sale of the day? If Gmail was down, was there a problem with “the cloud?” And how do you fix a cloud?
A quick trip over to Twitter confirmed the worst: Gmail—and Gchat, and in some cases Google Chrome—were busted and people were freaking out.
Had the advertising-based-on-robots-reading-your-email bubble finally burst?
Had the zombie apocalypse begun!?
Lifehacker quickly found every back door into the Gmail system and published it for a panicked nation.
When for what seemed like an entire minute my Google calendar wouldn’t load, the sky really did appear to be falling.
And then, as quickly as it happened, Gmail, and Gchat, and Chrome, and precious, precious Google Calendar were back. And we all went on Twitter and laughed about it like, “Hey, knew it was gonna be fine the whole time.” We went on Facebook and asked our friends how they managed to survive. Cuz, I mean, Google’s too big to fail, right?
But the thing is—if I can be serious for a second—what if it wasn’t just a couple of hours of screwed-up service? What would you do if you couldn’t get into your Google account for a day? For more? (And, granted, the outages only affected Google’s web interfaces—not mobile access.) How many of us use plain-old Gmail or paid Google Apps not just to conduct business, but to run our lives?
Maybe we were right to be totally freaked out. Not, y’know, that we really were. Right?