Google Blog Service Hit by Outage

After getting hacked this past weekend, Google’s Blogger publishing service suffered an outage on Thursday morning that kept both Blogger.com and the Blogspot hosting service offline for two hours.

A "network malfunction" caused the outage, Google said in a short note posted on Blogger Status, a site where the company informs users about Blogger system issues.

No data was lost during the outage. "We know how important Blogger is to our users, so we take issues like this very seriously," a Google spokeswoman wrote via e-mail.

On Saturday, a hacker broke into Google’s main official blog, which is hosted on Blogger, and posted a false message saying that the company had decided to cancel a joint click-to-call advertising project with eBay.

By Sunday, Google had patched the bug and removed the posting. However, the prank message was widely noticed and triggered significant speculation and confusion among Google observers.

A beta version of Blogger where Google is testing enhancements to the service went down for a while on Oct. 1, and on Sept. 28 the main Blogger platform experienced "sluggish" performance for several hours, according to Blogger Status.

Mark Nolan began using Blogger to host a personal blog about soccer about two months ago, and is disappointed with the platform’s reliability so far. "This isn’t what you’d expect from an operation like Google. It’s embarrassing in my opinion," Nolan said in a phone interview.

If the availability problems persist on Blogger, Nolan will consider switching the blog to another platform.

Nolan, who lives in Manchester, United Kingdom, and posts under the pseudonym James Ryddel in the soccer blog, hosts other websites he publishes with British providers.

Although all hosting providers experience downtime, the Blogger situation is reaching unacceptable levels, said Nolan, who works as director of TXT Media. "Google should concentrate on improving Blogger’s reliability and not on adding new features," Nolan said.

Google acquired Blogger in early 2003 when it bought Pyra Labs. At the time, Blogger was considered a leader of the blogging revolution. However, since then, Google has been criticized by some for being slow to enhance and upgrade the pioneering service.

For example, Google is now testing features for Blogger such as the ability to categorize entries with labels and to control access to blogs that other services implemented long before. For a long time, Blogger lacked native image uploading, a feature widely available from competitors.

In the past two years, the Blogger team has lost several key figures, including Pyra Labs founder Evan Williams in October 2004, senior specialist Biz Stone in September 2005 and product manager Jason Williams in August of this year. Williams later founded podcasting company Odeo, which later hired former Blogger staffer Stone.

Blogging’s popularity continues unabated. Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, Six Apart and others all offer competing services to Blogger. Blogging has also become an integral part of other online communication services, like the increasingly popular social networks.

Beyond its broad adoption among individuals, blogging has been embraced by corporations as a useful tool to communicate with clients and partners.

Anyone who encounters technical difficulties with Blogger is encouraged to contact the Blogger support team through the service’s help center, Google’s spokeswoman wrote.

By Juan Carlos Perez, IDG News Service (Miami Bureau)

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