Google officials denied the search engine’s decision to shutter its Chinese search engine was to blame for an outage to video-sharing site YouTube March 25.
YouTube, into which users pour 24 hours of video every minute, went down from about 7 a.m. EST to 9 a.m. EST. Users who tried to access the site during that time saw the message “Http/1.1 Service Unavailable” from YouTube’s main page.
However, while Google is generally forthcoming about reasons for outages to its applications, a YouTube spokesperson told eWEEK only that:
“YouTube is up again following a technical issue which has now been resolved. We know how important YouTube is for people and apologize for any inconvenience the downtime may have caused.”
The brief outage spurred speculation that YouTube was the victim of a political-oriented hack because it came only four days after Google closed its Google.cn search engine and rerouted users to its Google.hk search site March 22.
Google felt it was the only recourse to circumvent censorship by the Chinese government on Google.cn after it failed to resolve the issue of a widespread hack on its users’ Gmail accounts. U.S. Congress praised Google’s decision and denounced Microsoft for failing to take such an aggressive position.
Many believe the Chinese government would move to punish Google in some way for its deliberate end run around its censorship rules. Others feel citizens upset with Google’s direct challenge to the Chinese government’s authority could take matters into their own hands by disrupting Google’s Web services.
However, the YouTube outage is more likely the work of a technical error than a state-sponsored or lone wolf citizen hack. Whatever the case, YouTube is certainly not available in China, and neither is Google’s Blogger or Google Sites Website publishing application.
According to a new applications dashboard Google created to show service availability in mainland China, YouTube, Blogger and Google Sites have been unavailable there for the last week.
This isn’t the first time the finger has been pointed at China over something amiss on Google’s Web sites.
Earlier this week users searching “Google executives” through Google were given an English result entitled “Corporate Information – Google Management” that took them to a page with the biographic information of top executives displayed in Chinese.
The Guardian also discovered the page http://www.google.com/corporate/ being displayed in Chinese and directing visitors to the new, uncensored version of Google aimed at Chinese users. While some believed this was a hack, Google officials said this was a bug.
Unfortunately, in light of the tensions between Google and China, expect conspiracy theories to continue to fly that China is responsible for any outage on Google applications.