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Gmail goes down, Internet users still procrastinate*

August 11, 2008 |  6:32 pm

Gmail down

*(Post updated at 2:40 p.m. on Aug. 13 with comments from Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt)

As any self-respecting obsessive e-mail checker could tell you, popular webmail system Gmail went down for more than an hour this afternoon. People raged on Twitter about the outage (Typical tweet: "Ah! No Email! Save Us!"). They complained that outages on Web services have been happening a lot lately. They commented about the outrage on popular tech websites and made snarky comments about other people's panic.

But even though Gmail users spend hours a day checking their mail and chatting online, the outage didn't seem to make them any more productive by depriving them of their means of procrastination. Claire Hardy, a 28-year-old jury consultant in Costa Mesa, went to the website The Nest to talk to friends about the Gmail outage. She changed her Facebook status to say, "Claire would like Gmail to work ASAP." She refreshed Gmail every 20 minutes to see whether the site was working again.

"It made me less productive because I needed to make sure I was communicating with my friends," she said, "but we were communicating via other means that weren’t as efficient as Gmail."

She also checked on Google's official explanation, posted in the dark corner of the dedicated to groups interested in Google help announcements. "The Gmail team is currently aware of a subset of users being affected by the 502 error on login," the alert said.

The issue has been resolved, according to a Google spokesman. The company line:   

"From about 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific Time today, many Gmail users were unable to access their email.  The issue is now resolved.  We're very sorry for the interruption in service.  The issue was caused by a temporary outage in the contacts system used by Gmail which prevented Gmail from loading properly.  All mail is safe, though there may be minor delays with delivery."

Asked about the Gmail outage on CNBC's "Mad Money with Jim Cramer," Google CEO Eric Schmidt later said, "That was a screw-up. We fixed that. We're not perfect."

-- Alana Semuels

Semuels, a Times staff writer, covers wireless, marketing and the L.A. tech scene.

Gmail screen shot by Mirian Bruckschen via Flickr

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