Apple's MobileMe mail, Google's Gmail go dark

More troubles for MobileMe while an error in the contacts system used by Gmail prevented users accessing their accounts.

Apple's MobileMe and Google's Gmail online e-mail services suffered hours-long outages Monday, leaving millions of users unable to access their accounts.

Google restored service within about two and a half hours, but it took Apple approximately seven hours to restore full access to its online mail service.

Apple users first reported trouble accessing the service's servers from their desktop mail clients around 2 p.m. Eastern, and in the next several hours, posted several hundred messages on the MobileMe support forum about the outage.

A notice on the service's main support page acknowledged the problem. "MobileMe members are intermittently unable to access MobileMe Mail using a desktop e-mail application, iPhone or iPod touch," said Apple. "Access to www.me.com/mail is unaffected. Service will be restored ASAP. We apologize for any inconvenience."

By 9 p.m. Eastern that notice had been replaced with an all-clear indicator.

Google's Gmail, meanwhile, went offline around 5 p.m. Eastern, and greeted users with a message reading in part, "We're sorry, but your Gmail account is currently experiencing errors."

A little over two hours later, Google added a notice to its Gmail help page that attributed the outage to "the contacts system used by Gmail which is preventing Gmail from loading properly. We are starting to roll out a fix now and hope to have the problem resolved as quickly as possible."

Shortly after that, at about 7:30 p.m., Google declared the outage over. "Users who were temporarily affected by the 502 errors should now be able to access their account," read a message posted to the Gmail Help Discussion forum. "Thanks for your patience while we worked to resolve this issue for everyone."

Apple users were especially livid, in part because they, unlike Gmail's users, pay for their service, and also because of the multiple problems they had with MobileMe since its launch a month ago.

"I'm so disgusted with Apple right now I don't even know what to say," said a user identified as "Furi0us.Bee" in a message posted to the longest forum thread on the subject.

"This is crazy," said another user, "mac_wa," on the same thread. "I have had more down time with my mac/me mail than any other service I've had... and I pay for this."

But Owen Schultz had one of the best takes of any user. "Dear MS Outlook," Schultz started, "I am so sorry about our breakup several year ago. I have been thinking about you a lot since then. Will you please consider taking me back? Just one more chance? I'm sorry about all the horrible things I said about you and your operating system. You were the best I ever had! MobileMe and I are finished!"

MobileMe's travails -- ranging from an extended migration from its predecessor, .Mac, to an 11-day mail outage last month -- prompted Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs, to issue a memo to company employees last week in which he called the rollout "not up to Apple's standards."

Jobs shook up Apple's management team over the series of snafus, and handed responsibility for the service to Eddy Cue, who heads iTunes.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld

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