Monday's Gmail and Chrome downtime explained

On Monday, many of the millions of Gmail users could not access their accounts for close to an hour in the early afternoon (Eastern Time). Other services operated by Google also experienced issues at around the same time which included its Chrome web browser, which crashed a number of times for many of its users on Monday.

So what happened? According to a forum post by Google engineer Tim Steele on the Chromium.org site, the problems with Gmail, Chrome and other Google services were all caused by an issue with Google Sync. He stated that the server's infrastructure has a feature that enforces "quotas on per-datatype sync traffic."

Steele added:

That quota service experienced traffic problems today due to a faulty load balancing configuration change. That change was to a core piece of infrastructure that many services at Google depend on. This means other services may have been affected at the same time, leading to the confounding original title of this bug.

The servers, in turn, "reacted too conservatively", according to Steele and that caused the server's clients to throttle all of the data types. The problem is Chrome doesn't actually support all those data types, which caused the web browser to crash for many users. Google corrected the issue quickly but the downtime was long enough to expose how critical Google's infrastructure is to our daily operations.

Source: Chromium.org | Image via Google

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Chrome has been seriously flaky for the last version or so, visited links not showing on some sites unless you close the tab and reopen that particular site and YouTube videos don't seem to want to play in most websites anymore, but work fine on YouTube? (by clicking on the youtube link in the embedded video)

I was in bed when all these other issues were happening though

Chrome has been flaky since day one and this sync crap is definitely a no go. No telling what they're "syncing" into?!!

Wasn't online in the early afternoon, I don't think, and even if I was, I don't and won't use Chrome and Gmail is definitely not my main e-mail. use it only for junk storage!

Chrome is no where as good as most of the people here try to make it out to be!

Google corrected the issue quickly but the downtime was long enough to expose how critical Google's infrastructure is to our daily operations.

Oddly enough, I didn't even notice... Microsoft services FTW!

Weird, I was using Chrome on two computers (one running beta, the other stable), and neither crashed. I was too busy to access Gmail, so never got a chance. Although Gmail is my primary email account, I don't depend on email as a form of communication, so meh.

It depends on if you had Chrome sync enabled. My Chrome crashed about 7 times in under 5 minutes but after that everything was perfectly fine.

Yeah, if Sync isn't enabled, you wouldn't have had this issue. I was affected by two crashes in quick succession, but then it cleared up

Ambroos said,
It depends on if you had Chrome sync enabled. My Chrome crashed about 7 times in under 5 minutes but after that everything was perfectly fine.

This! I use my account on multiple devices so Sync is a must have for me, after the initial crashes I left it for a bit and then it was working fine again. Kinda poop that problems with one feature could cause so much disruption but I only use it for personal use so I didn't have many major issues with the downtime.

I think Google should add some better exception handling on the component that handles the Sync, so if the service is down, slow or sending bad data so it can fail without taking down the whole application

I have Chrome installed at work with sync enabled, and I never had Chrome to crash on me during that day. My team and I use Google Drive often to work on some shared documents, so it's not because I wasn't using it..