The Gmail Crash and Other Online Problems

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Google Inc.'s (NASDAQ: GOOG) email product - Gmail - crashed for users across part of the world. That apparently caused the crash of a number of Google Chrome browsers as well. As the technology that drives Internet use becomes less stable from time to time, the effects are bound to give users pause as they consider new technology.

The crashes of large social networks such as Twitter and Facebook have nothing to do with the Google problem. But the public may not make that distinction. A problem with an Internet-based application or service is a problem not matter what the origin may be.

The public's confusion and concerns get compounded when large customer sites like that of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) are hacked. The online bank service goes down temporarily. The bank blames programmer mischief from unidentified sources. Then the media loosely links the incident to the mysterious hacking of government and large corporate online-based data. And consumer paranoia is off to the races.

Educating the public as to the differences among these incidents is almost impossible. The education would involve getting nontechnical people to understand engineering subtleties that are too complex for them without appropriate training. The uninitiated believe the extremely broad Internet industry, which includes both consumer and enterprise operations, is vulnerable. And the best minds in the business have been unable to solve the problems or prevent them.

With each new piece of news that a large company like Google cannot maintain a service seamlessly, some set of people withdraws, perhaps only a little bit, from Internet use. There was a time when many people who used e-commerce sites worried that their financial data would be stolen. That gets magnified by widely reported occurrences like the Gmail outage. And the Internet gets less and less secure, as many users see it. That may not be just because these people have an incorrect perception of the problem.

Douglas A. McIntyre

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Internet Tagged: featured, GOOG, JPM