Google+, which has been in field trial mode since June 28, hit its first major bug over the weekend: Users were receiving duplicate email notifications, with Google sometimes sending dozens of redundant messages for a single on-site action.
The Error and Response
To make a terrible paraphrase, "To err is Google" – or at least, it's what we expect from Google in beta mode. Considering that the social network launched only two weeks ago and has hit a shockingly high volume of users in that time, it's a little surprising that we haven't seen errors before now. But we need wait no longer. The first real Google+ disaster has hit.
The problem as far as users saw it? Every time an on-site action would result in a notification (such as another user adding you to one of their Circles), Google would send that notification five, 10, and even up to 50 times. Many users wound up turning off their email notifications from Google+ just to avoid the headache. The issue lasted about an hour and 20 minutes, according to Vic Gundotra, Google's VP of Social.
But why? Gundotra explained that "we ran out of disk space on the service that keeps track of notifications. Hence our system continued to try sending notifications. Over, and over again. Yikes." He openly accepted that Google was at fault, stating that, "We didn't expect to hit these high thresholds so quickly, but we should have. [...] Once again, we are very sorry for the spam."
Does This Mean Anything Important?
For those of you who were under the delusion that Google was infallible, this should work as a nice reminder that – yes, Google absolutely screws up. (Really, shouldn't you have learned that lesson back with Buzz?) Errors like these are, in fact, why Google had the beta in the first place. But are there any long-term warning flags we should see from this?
Well, while most of this should be seen as a simple error that natural to early-phase testing, the question of scope is important. While Google may have been surprised by the rush for Google+ invites, they should still have all the capabilities to ensure that the servers didn't run out of space. Considering once again that it's only been two weeks, Google really should have been more prepared.
Assuming they learn their lesson, there's no harm done. However, this is far from the greatest signifier of server stability and scalability on Google's end.