No Word on Cause of Google Mail Outage

By Jacqueline Lee April 17, 2012

Google has confirmed that Gmail shut down for some users this morning starting at about 9:42 a.m. The outage affected about two percent of the user base, according to Google, although outage reports were widespread. Many users received a temporary 500 error message, which is a generic message to tell users that a website cannot fulfill requests.

Google has confirmed the outage but has not reported why Gmail went down. “The problem with Google Mail should be resolved,” says the company. “We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better.”

Google also sent out this tweet: “Thanks everyone for the reports of 500 errors, we're working on it.” The Gmail dashboard went green at about 1:46 p.m.

The first news of the outage came through social media as users lit up the Twitterverse with complaints about being unable to access Gmail. At first, Google’s dashboard simply said, “We're investigating reports of an issue with Google Mail. We will provide more information shortly.”

Many of the Twitter reports were not in English, indicating that the outage had a global impact.

A 500 error can only be fixed through the web server software because there are no problems on the client side. The error can be caused by a malicious injection hack, which necessitates connecting to the site via FTP and downloading a backup .htaccess file.

A 500 error is a vague error and can be quite frustrating to track down. Often, the cause includes incorrect file permissions or coding errors in the .htaccess file. Administrators can try to track down the error by checking the error log in their cPanel. If the error is a Perl error, then the administrator has to track down the individual piece of faulty code that caused the error.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

Contributing Writer

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