Google News Updates with YouTube, Experiences Shutdown

Google News updated its site with YouTube videos and a new look, even as it experienced a shutdown that also deprived users of their Gmail, YouTube and other Google services. Google has experienced similar shutdowns in the past, none lasting more than a few hours. Despite their increasing adoption by both the general public and the enterprise, cloud-based services remain vulnerable to the occasional short-term failure.

Google made a few changes to its Google News service, incorporating YouTube videos and a few aesthetic adjustments into the page, a day after many of its services went dark for 3.5 hours due to a system error.

The Google News site now includes a "Featured Video," as well as a small YouTube tab beside certain news stories, which users can click on to access that site's video content.

Some of the top news on the site, however, has focused on the recent Google outages, which affected much of the company's services.

"It highlights the importance of search in something as large and complex as the Internet, and how bruised people feel when they're deprived of that tool," Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said in an interview. "The organic growth of online services has become such a critical part of people's lives, but they often don't really notice how much they use them until they're gone. You don't miss the water until the well runs dry."

On the morning of May 14, Google experienced slowdowns and outages to Google News and Gmail services. A small subset of users also reported issues with YouTube and a few other Google-affiliated sites. The company blamed the situation on a Web traffic jam in Asia.

"An error in one of our systems caused us to direct some of our Web traffic through Asia, which created a traffic jam," Urs Hoelzle, senior vice president of Operations for Google, wrote in a corporate blog posting on the afternoon of May 14. "As a result, about 14 percent of our users experienced slow services or even interruptions."

Twitter subscribers immediately started firing off 140-character micro-blogs on the May 14 shutdown, registering opinions that ranged from an apathetic "meh" to comically overblown rage.

Google experiences periodic outages of a few hours' duration, such as a February 2009 incident that took down Gmail in the United States and the United Kingdom for 2.5 hours. In August 2008, Google Gmail and Google Apps endured some 15 hours of downtime.

Cloud-based services such as Google are vulnerable to occasional shutdowns, as the infrastructure required for "five-9s," or virtually uninterrupted, reliability would be prohibitive to build for a system that supports millions of users. Other cloud services, such as an early test release of Microsoft Azure, have also wrestled with unexpected downtime in 2009.