Gmail users were unable to get to their accounts on Monday as an outage struck the Google e-mail service.
"We're aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a small subset of users. The affected users are unable to access Google Mail," Google said at 11:12 a.m. PDT on its Google Apps status dashboard after it discovered the error.
At 11:28 a.m., some good news arrived: "Google Mail service has already been restored for some users, and we expect a resolution for all users in the near future."
However, two hours later, the problems persisted for some, and the Twittersphere was abuzz with griping.
The problems appeared to affect the Web-based version of the service, but accounts could be reached using third-party e-mail software that used the IMAP, or Internet Message Access Protocol, interface.
Gmail is used by tens of millions of people, and its fast growth carried it past AOL's e-mail service into third place, according to ComScore.
Google didn't immediately comment on the scope and cause of the outage. It's not the first Gmail outage this year.
Google Apps customers, who pay $50 per user per year, get extensions of their service contracts, if their services are down for longer than a certain duration. The dashboard showed only mail to have troubles, not other Google Apps services, such as Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Docs.
Outages pose problems for Google, as it tries to persuade companies to buy into its cloud-computing vision, in which applications are hosted on the Internet rather than on corporate computers. But Google argues that its service availability is competitive with most organizations' abilities to run their own e-mail servers.
Updated 1:50 p.m. PDT: Some users reported being able to access their Gmail from the iGoogle home page, but this didn't work for everyone we briefly surveyed in the office, and it seemed sporadically available this way for others. Google said it would "provide an update by September 1, 2009 2:16:00 PM UTC-7 (PDT) detailing when we expect to resolve the problem" on its Apps Status page.
Updated 1:58 p.m. PDT: How widespread is this outage? Please let us know if you're down, and where you are, in the comments below.
Updated 2:03 p.m. PDT: Google apologized for the outage on the Gmail blog, and also said the problem was affecting the company internally.
"We know many of you are having trouble accessing Gmail right now -- we are too, and we definitely feel your pain. We don't usually post about minor issues here (the Apps status dashboard and the Gmail Help Center are usually where this kind of information goes). Because this is impacting so many of you, we wanted to let you know we're currently looking into the issue and hope to have more info to share here shortly."
By Stephen Shankland