The software bug that turned a Gmail outage into a landslide of email for one man

The software bug that turned a Gmail outage into a landslide of email for one man

on Jan 27, 14 • by Chris Bubinas • with No Comments

An unidentified issue caused a widespread Gmail outage on the afternoon of Jan. 24, prompting a brief spell of panic and even a tweet from competitor Yahoo! that many perceived as mocking. But while, for most people, the error was a minor inconvenience, an unexpected bug that arose simultaneously caused a massive...

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An unidentified issue caused a widespread Gmail outage on the afternoon of Jan. 24, prompting a brief spell of panic and even a tweet from competitor Yahoo! that many perceived as mocking. But while, for most people, the error was a minor inconvenience, an unexpected bug that arose simultaneously caused a massive wave of emails to one unfortunate Hotmail user.

TechCrunch reported the glitch after being pointed to it by a reader. When a user searches "Gmail" on Google – something that presumably happened many times during the outage, as users sought workarounds for the problem – the top search result launches a "Compose" window pointed to a specific email address. The address is a Hotmail account owned by a management professional, David S. Peck, who lives in Fresno, Calif. Peck told TechCrunch he's been getting thousands of mostly blank emails, with as many as 500 arriving every hour.

"They're coming so fast, I want to stop them," Peck said. "I deleted everything last night and woke up this morning and had 1,900 new emails. Only two of them were emails I cared about."

Peck went to Hotmail for help, but, ironically, he asked them to email his alternate address, a Gmail account that was down precisely when he may have needed help the most, TechCrunch noted. While the incident may have mostly meant a frustrating 24 hours for one man, the lesson is clear for developers everywhere: minor oversights, test text strings and other code ephemera can emerge under unexpected conditions, offering a strong case for development methodologies designed to help catch such errors. Using tools like static analysis software, developers can find the aberrations in their code that could lead to unexpected glitches before the code goes live.

Software news brought to you by Klocwork Inc., dedicated to helping software developers create better code with every keystroke.

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