Gmail Error

Gmail is at it yet again and this time they are performing magic tricks that many of us have never seen first-hand…they are making your email messages disappear before your very eyes! Hey, I never said it was a positive magic trick, now did I?

TechCrunch reported on this happening earlier today and received this response from Google regarding the situation:

Regretfully, a small number of our users — around 60 — lost some or all of their email received prior to December 18th. Once we found out about this issue, we worked day and night to confirm that only a few accounts were affected and to do whatever we could to restore as much of the users’ accounts as we could. We’ve also reached out to the people who were affected to apologize and to work with them to restore the email from any personal backup they might have.

We know how important Gmail is to our users — we use it ourselves for our corporate email. We have extensive safeguards in place to protect email stored with Gmail and we are confident that this is a small and isolated incident.

What’s really interesting to read is in the Google Group where this is all going on. Here are three quotes from one particular user (I put key points in bold):

The point you helpful souls are missing is that we lost ALL our messages – ALL of them, get it?  I lost over a thousand – from every single folder, including SPAM (not that I care). I’m getting bored with links to the gmail self-help pages – what I want are solid data.  Problem determination and problem source identification.  Here are the facts as I have them so far:

 (1) On or about 12/17-12/18 a number of gmail users (so far at least five, by my count) lost the entire contents of their accounts, including all messages in their inboxes, their sent messages, their archives, their spam, and even thir contacts and signatures.

(2) More than one of us use Firefox2 as our browser

(3) I personally had left a browser window open to my gmail account over the time this occurred.  (Yes, it was secure, no one else had access to the system)

(4) I have a screen cap of over 100 instances of Firefox complaining that a script was running slowly on the inbox.  This was not a script that I started intentionally.

We are trying to identify and correct a potentially pervasive problem here – one that might be a bug in gmail, or a bug in Firefox, or a bug in how the browser interacts with gmail.

Later on he continues:

Now we have perhaps seven identifiable victims in the same time period. At least three using Firefox, at least one uses IE.  Also one user reports they have a “pwn3d” message – Deano.uk, I hope you saved that one! 

 Somehow we have to get Google’s attention or a lot more users could be at risk.

And then a few days later there is some restoration:

Status update: some email has been restored – from 12/10 through 12/17 – inbox and spam, but not sent mail.  Also got a note that Firefox 2.0.0.1 is out – fixes a couple remote exploit bugs.  I wonder, is this the one? http://nvd.nist.gov/nvd.cfm?cvename=CVE-2006-6507  Doesn’t explain why non-Firefox users saw lost email.  And what of our accounts, can they ever be secured again?

So there you have it, I would say that those three quotes summarize the story pretty well and show that only one-week worth of email was restored. The most interesting point that I wanted to make is that this might be related to Firefox 2.0.0.0 so it is highly recommended that you upgrade to Firefox 2.0.0.1 (if you use Firefox) to help ensure that this doesn’t happen to you.

I would be absolutely devastated if this happened to me because there are a lot of important messages in my Gmail Inbox, which leads me to another point. These online email services should offer some way to backup your email messages in case something catastrophic like this happens. It should be as simple as pushing a button and downloading a compressed file, but the peace-of-mind that it would give users would be priceless. This isn’t the first Google Group that I have seen started about this topic, either, which means something needs to happen to make me feel comfortable keeping my messages on their servers.

Anyone else feeling a little nervous when they visit their Gmail account now? After reading this I pulled up Gmail with my fingers crossed in hopes that my messages were still there…looks like I am okay, for now.

There Are 18 Comments

  1. I’m nervous now. :(

    I vaguely recall seeing an article on Lifehacker explaining how to backup Gmail e-mails but I can’t find it anymore.

  2. This should work:

    1. Click SETTINGS -> FORWARDING AND POP.
    2. Select “Enable POP for all mail”
    3. [mail.google.com]

    Unfortunately that doesn’t save labels and everything though.

  3. …and folks wonder why I refuse to use GMail. 90% of my e-mail comes in via ISP POP3 accounts and is handled by Thunderbird on my own machine. The remaining 10% which I use for subscription announcements, surveys and nothing really important is done via my Windows Live and Yahoo! e-mail accounts.

    If something were to happen to my Thunderbird I would be in trouble and it is my own fault. However I am not depending and putting all faith on a third-party to keep my messages safe from the Houdini Effect or possible security breaches (which is another issue I have with Google).

  4. I had some problems using gmail in firefox 2.0. It works perfectly in IE.

    smelling something fishy?

    [mozilla.org]

  5. I basically have a copy of my emails on my pc and on their server. Situations like this is the reason I take extra steps to cover all bases. But then again, my hdd could crash and gmail servers at the same time. :P

  6. I used to POP all my gmail mails to my PC, and use gmail as a backup only (just in case my PC crashed).

    After this incident I should probably think of my PC as the backup just incase gmail crashed :=)

  7. javasharp wrote:
    I had some problems using gmail in firefox 2.0. It works perfectly in IE.

    smelling something fishy?

    [mozilla.org]

    Oh one of those bugs. Don’t have high enough clearnace on my Bugzilla account to view details of this one.

  8. Wow, just shows that despite Gmail’s seemingly rock-solid performance, it certainly isn’t flawless. Once again kinda glad I use Yahoo! mail beta (and Fx2.0.0.1). I see you found out a way to download messages, I was gonna mention that Yahoo! mail lets you download messages, although it’s only for paying users. That would really suck for that to happen to you. It’s almost funny how they triumphantly mention they revived a week of Email as if it makes the slightest difference. Luckily it looks like there were only a few victims, but for them this certainly a grave matter.

    Pray, Gmailers, pray!

  9. I would not be surprised to see in the very near future, the capability added to Gmail a backup/restore function.

    Personally, I use Gmail for 100% of my email. Luckily I have never had an issue like this. While I do have a lot of email, if it got wiped out, it would not devastate me.

    The one thing that I did not see mentioned, was if this wiped out all their contacts as well. That would devastate me and just makes me believe that it is time to create a backup of my contacts.

  10. No doubt, Google should give us an option to backup our Gmail accounts.

    But am I worried enough to go back to using a POP client like Tbird or Outlook? Not if its only a few Gmail accounts out of the millions being used are affected, there are far more important things be concerned about.

    Come on guys, don’t be listening to the “sky is falling” crowd.

    Bob

  11. bob wrote:
    But am I worried enough to go back to using a POP client like Tbird or Outlook? Not if its only a few Gmail accounts out of the millions being used are affected, there are far more important things be concerned about.

    Hopefully it is only a “few” Gmail accounts, but this is the ‘risk’ you take with any online e-mail provider.

  12. bob wrote:
    Come on guys, don’t be listening to the “sky is falling” crowd.

    The sky is falling? 8O Oh No!!!!!!!!!!!!! :mrgreen:

  13. Knight wrote:
    I basically have a copy of my emails on my pc and on their server. Situations like this is the reason I take extra steps to cover all bases. But then again, my hdd could crash and gmail servers at the same time. :P

    If both crash you better step back from your computer for awhile.

    OldManDeath wrote:
    I would not be surprised to see in the very near future, the capability added to Gmail a backup/restore function.

    I would think it would be coming soon as well, but you can never tell with these companies.

    bob wrote:
    No doubt, Google should give us an option to backup our Gmail accounts.

    But am I worried enough to go back to using a POP client like Tbird or Outlook? Not if its only a few Gmail accounts out of the millions being used are affected, there are far more important things be concerned about.

    Come on guys, don’t be listening to the “sky is falling” crowd.

    Well, if it has happened to 60 other people who is to say that it wouldn’t happen to you. When you don’t plan for the worst is when the worst happens. I’ll take my chances of being safe rather than sorry.

  14. I have set up my laptop on dual boot Windows XP & Ubuntu 8.04.

    a. Outlook send/receives emails (POP3) and is set to DELETE from
    server after downloading (username setup as username@gmail.com). (I then auto backup and archive these in an external HDD).

    b. Thunderbird in Ubuntu is set to receive emails (POP3) from the same
    account and leave a copy on the server after downloading (username
    setup as recent:username@gmail.com).

    c. My HTC Touch Pro is setup to receive emails (POP3) and leave a copy
    on the server after downloading (username setup as recent:username@gmail.com).

    PROBLEM: In my HTC Touch Pro mobile when I do a send/receive the next day
    (after the emails have been downloaded and are deleted from the server by my PC), all my copies of earlier downloaded emails disappears from my mobile phone as well. I would like to retain my emails until I manually delete them from my mobile phone?

    The whole purpose of having emails on multi clients is defeated if I
    can’t read my older emails and action them while I am mobile also I cannot setup an auto send/receive as it will delete the emails.

    Some very smart programmer either at Gmail or at HTC mobile tried to out think the user’s requirements and messed up as usual.

  15. I have gmails disappearing without rhyme or reason and it’s totally random. At first I could not figure out what happened to an important email. Then it happened the following week to another important message, and has been happening for over a month now, but only once in a while. Made no sense, until I did a google search and found out I was not the only one. It still makes no sense as there doesn’t seem to be a pattern. Thousands of messages in my inbox, and one day as I search for one from a few days back, it is gone. Poof! Thanks Google. This is great. And thanks for your boilerplate no-answer responses to our problem. Very strange, and really diminishes the reliability of gmail, doesn’t it?

  16. Exactly the same is happening to my gmail account. Once in awhile random emails vanish. There was nothing important in those emails. I will try to inquire Google.

  17. Last week contents of my inbox vanished. This is the second time in about a year. Most frustrating thing is no way to contact Google (I gave up after going around in circles).
    Reluctant conclusion: gotta dump gmail, if you can’t rely on it, then it’s worthless. Bye-bye!

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