Google fixes Personalised Home Page glitch

Google has finally solved a technical glitch on its Personalised Home Page service that rattled an undetermined number of users.

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Google has finally solved a technical glitch on its Personalised Home Page service that hit an undetermined number of users.

Anecdotal evidence gathered from discussion forums indicates that Google began rolling out a fix to the problem at around 3am on Friday, almost 24 hours after the glitch emerged.

The problems follow disruption to other Google services recently, leading some to question the company's ability to provide robust availability for its online services, particularly for those for which it offers uptime guarantees, such as the paid version of Google Apps, the suite of hosted communication and collaboration applications for businesses of all sizes.

In March, the Gmail portion of Google Apps suffered three major outages, affecting even subscribers who have signed up for the fee-based version of the suite, which guarantees 99.9% uptime.

Earlier this week, Google backtracked on a plan to do a 13-hour upgrade to its Google Calendar service, which is part of Google Apps, apparently after a significant number of Google Apps administrators expressed deep concern at the possible impact of the maintenance work on the service's availability during a weekday and during US work hours.

Incidents like the one affecting Personalised Home Page also weaken the position of backers of hosted applications. Google is one of the most vocal proponents of the software-as-a-service model, which rivals the traditional approach of having users install applications on their own PCs and servers.

The company did not declare the problem solved until almost 2pm on Friday, about 32 hours after the first problem reports started surfacing. "A number of Google users had difficulty accessing their settings and preferences on the personalised version of their homepages over the past day," a spokeswoman said.

"Users should have their personalised homepages restored at this time. We apologise for the inconvenience this may have caused our users. We know how important Google Personalised Homepage is to our users, so we take issues like this very seriously."

Google did not disclose how many users were affected, nor did it offer an explanation of what happened. "This affected a relatively small group of users, and we believe this to be an isolated incident," the spokeswoman wrote.

Personalised Home Page is a free service that lets users turn Google.com into a customised portal by adding to it syndicated content feeds, as well as "gadget" applications, turning it into a user's hub for web content, online services and applications.

The problem, of apparently significant proportions, erupted at around 6am on Thursday, when angry users began flocking to discussion forums to report that their home pages had either reverted to old versions or to their original default settings.

Users complained about lost productivity and missing data, but throughout Friday morning many reported in discussion forums that their Google home pages had been restored, although some said the problem had not been fixed for them as late as 1:14 pm.

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