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Google Chat glitches hit users on Monday

Analysts wonder if unsent messages from cloud will concern the enterprise

December 9, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Were you left waiting for an answer from your boss on Monday? Or waiting to find out if your boyfriend really wants to break up?

Well, you might have been if you were using Google Talk or the web-based Gmail Chat system yesterday. The company confirmed today that messages created by a "subset" of users were left unsent because of glitches in the messaging system.

Andrew Kovacs, a spokesman for Google, said the problems started around 1:30 Eastern time on Monday and peaked in the next few hours. He said that by 4:30 p.m., most of the problems had been cleared up and there was an "all clear" by 7 p.m. He would not elaborate on how many users were affected by the glitch.

Users largely received an alert noting that their messages had not been sent, though that didn't happen in every case.

Kovacs would not disclose the cause of the problem, noting that Google normally doesn't share technical details on what he called minor problems.

Just last month, Google had cried foul over the media coverage about recent Google Apps outages. Kovacs said Monday's Gmail Chat issue was not an outage and the Gmail e-mail system itself was not affected.

"From Google's perspective, this was, of course, awful," said Mark Levitt, an analyst at research firm IDC. "But most [of these users] are freeloaders. They're getting free service. Anybody getting something free isn't entitled to complain about a blip. There will be glitches and there's no way to avoid that."

Levitt, however, did say that Monday's chat problems are a stain on cloud computing. Google runs its Gmail chat in the cloud, while its Google Talk is based on downloaded software.

"This tarnishes cloud computing," he added. "It shows that Google, which is a poster child for cloud computing, is not perfect and will suffer some of the same problems other systems have."

Oliver Young, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., said that Web-based applications simply go down from time to time and consumers aren't that surprised by it.

"The issue is with the enterprise and people looking to use it in business," he added. "Are CIOs and the enterprise going to look at Google differently? No. But if it keeps happening over and over again, it may call it into question. But for now, it's not an issue."

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