There was a mild moment of panic in the FSE office on Friday when all of our Google searches were returned with an error message.
We initially blamed our own internet connection, but confused users quickly took to Twitter to confirm that they were having the same problem, using the hashtag #googledown to vent their frustrations. For the first time in years, it seemed as though Google’s search facility actually went offline for around fifteen minutes.
Apparently the outage was down to a 500 error, which means that there was a problem with Google’s search server and the search engine could not complete the user’s request.
This downtime may have affected millions of searches worldwide (and, as one tabloid paper suggested, cost Google hundreds of thousands of pounds in revenue in the UK alone), but not an awful lot is known about the outage, apart from it only seemed to have an impact on desktop users. Mobile searchers and those using other service applications such as Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar were unaffected. According to a number of different online news sites, Google’s team is yet to officially announce or acknowledge any problems, despite being asked to comment.
A large number of searchers took to rival Bing to try and investigate the problem. ‘Why is Google down?’ briefly became the top search query for the Microsoft-driven search engine, causing many Twitter users to comment that perhaps it was Bing’s ‘time to shine’ in the wake of Google’s failures.
Many people have also suggested that the downtime was linked to Google’s attempts to keep up with the tens of thousands of requests it’s been receiving from European users who are desperate to take advantage of the new ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling.
The blunder came just a day after many UK and French users were reporting problems accessing their Gmail accounts. Frustrated emailers were confronted with an Error 502 message and it’s been reported that problems continued for many for up to four hours.