In case you missed it, Google's chat applications have been on the fritz for over a day. That is, they were until Google tracked down the bug and squashed it today.
Problems began when Google updated Hangouts and the other chat apps used in Gmail and other services. The initial update added features like being able to see who was online, and better contact organization. Little did users know that the update brought a little more with it. They began seeing messages intended for one person sent to a totally different contact. Some users couldn't log in or were repeatedly kicked out when they tried to log in.
Google immediately began working on the issue, but it took longer than expected to locate the problem. In an update on the Apps Status website, Google stated Thursday that services had been "restored for some users," but issues continued. At about 2:30pm EDT on Thursday, Google posted a vague update that didn't describe the issue at all; they only stated that there was an issue and they were hard at work fixing it.
By midday Friday, users were beginning to get really upset. While problems were resolved for some, Google hadn't yet fixed the issue for everyone. It wasn't until 2 PM EDT on Friday that a message was finally posted on the Apps Status site that said "The problem with Google Talk should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support." No more explanation was given.
Throughout the past few days the company has been pretty vague about the issues surrounding it's IM services and has only referred to issues affecting Google Talk. That's interesting because gTalk was rolled in to Hangouts this summer, following the announcement of Hangouts at I/O 2013 in May. A Google spokesperson said that the company was "still gathering information" about the IM bug, and declined to comment any further.
Google is not known for service outages, and thankfully so. Individuals, schools, businesses, and government agencies have all come to depend on these services like Hangouts. Google has not given any kind of an estimate on how many messages were sent to the wrong recipients, or how many people were unable to use the service. A Google Apps administrator said on the official Google Chat forum:
"Certainly, it shakes peoples' confidence. Moreover, the fact that the [Apps Status] dashboard provides conflicting information really makes it feel like amateur hour at the Googleplex," … "Did they really find the problem and resolve it? Google needs to provide some detailed information and over communicate on this to gain some trust/confidence that the issue is solved. My next step, I suppose, is to shut down chat altogether to avoid any further possibility of a breach of confidentiality."
It seems that the issue or issues have been resolved and there is no need to shut down the services. However, Google needs to offer an explanation to its users.