Googlefail! The Web reacts to virtual traffic jam

May 20, 2009 By Elise Ackerman
Google logo

What would life be like without Google? Last week 83 million people found out.

"The world basically stopped this morning for me," Richard Treharne wrote in a May 14 post on Twitter, the microblogging site.

Google users from Copenhagen to California had difficulty accessing Google and its numerous Web services, including YouTube, Gmail, , and Google Reader. In some cases, the sites were slow. In others, they didn't load at all.

In a blog post, Urs Hoelzle, senior vice president for operations, said "an error in one of our systems caused us to direct some of our through Asia, which created a traffic jam."

Hoelzle said the problem, which started at 7:48 a.m. and lasted about two hours, affected 14 percent of Google's 597 million users.

"We've been working hard to make our services ultrafast and 'always on,' so it's especially embarrassing when a glitch like this one happens," Hoelzle said. "We're very sorry that it happened, and you can be sure that we'll be working even harder to make sure that a similar problem won't happen again."

The outage frustrated many, provoked anxiety in some and inspired wit in a few.

"Googlefail is just a conspiracy to prevent us from knowing the truth about Swineflu," Greg Pettigrew wrote in a Twitter post.

This is the second major glitch Google has suffered this year.

On Jan. 31, people attempting to do a Google search between 6:30 a.m. and 7:25 a.m. Pacific time got results marked with a warning "this site may harm your computer."

Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products, said the problem was a simple human error: Someone importing a list of sites suspected of carrying had introduced a typo.

Dmitri Alperovitch, vice president of threat research for McAfee, said it appeared humans may have been at fault again in the recent . Alperovitch, said a change appeared to have been made that affected the border gateway protocol, software that determines how a host, like Google, connects to other systems like AT&T or Level 3. The change "caused a fault that made them disappear from a certain part of the Internet," Alperovitch said.

Four years ago, an error related to the domain name system, which is one level above the border gateway protocol, knocked multiple Google services off the Web for several hours. Among the services affected May 7, 2005, were the home page, Gmail, Google News, Froogle, Google Images, Google Groups and Local.


(c) 2009, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).
Visit, the World Wide Web site of the Mercury News, at
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: Google to add maps of local findings to search results

Related Stories

Google to add maps of local findings to search results

April 8, 2009

Google has confirmed that it is going to start adding a map of local findings to search results for things like "pizza," "burger" and "dentist," something that Google watchers have been buzzing about for months.

Google News launches Twitter feed

April 28, 2009

Google News, the news aggregation site run by the Internet search giant announced the launch of the @googlenews Twitter feed in a post on the Google News blog on Monday.

Google glitch disrupts search engine, e-mail

May 14, 2009

(AP) -- Millions of people were cut off from Google Inc.'s search engine, e-mail and other online services Thursday, sparking a flurry of frustrated venting that served as a reminder of society's growing dependence on Google's ...

Recommended for you

Where can I buy a chair like that? This app will tell you

August 23, 2016

If you think you have a knack for interior design, or just want to spruce up your own home, new technology developed by Cornell researchers may help you choose furnishings the way professionals do. And professionals may find ...

Sponge creates steam using ambient sunlight

August 22, 2016

How do you boil water? Eschewing the traditional kettle and flame, MIT engineers have invented a bubble-wrapped, sponge-like device that soaks up natural sunlight and heats water to boiling temperatures, generating steam ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) May 21, 2009
Wait, Google's on the internet now? I'm gonna save so many stamps.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.