By Barry Levine / CIO Today. Updated December 17, 2013.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has apologized for her company’s major email outage. The question now is how much of an effect will the highly visible episode have on her efforts to turn the company around?
On Tumblr, which Yahoo owns, Mayer wrote on Friday that the several days of unavailable email for millions of customers was “unacceptable.” She said that “this has been a very frustrating week for our users and we are very sorry.”
Mayer added that Yahoo was taking the outage “very seriously,” but, as the company has previously said, “the outage was much more complex than it seemed at first,” which is why it took several days to resolve.
‘Particularly Rate One’
As Mayer said, there was a “specific hardware outage in one of our storage systems serving 1 percent of our users,” about which the network operating center became aware on Monday, December 9th at 10:27 p.m. PT. The Mail team, working with storage engineers, starting working to fix the problem and moving to back-up systems, and projected a full recovery by 1:30 p.m. PT on Tuesday.
But, she said, the problem “was a particularly rare one,” with different users being impacted in different ways, including an inability to access an email account and the non-delivery of email, which was stored in a queue.
As of Friday afternoon, Mayer said, access has been restored to “almost everyone” and backlogged messages have been delivered. The company is still working on fully restoring inbox states, so that messages are correctly starred and placed in the proper folders.
Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, reminded us that Mayer “had talked up Yahoo Mail quite a bit, so she has egg on her face,” even if this doesn’t mean “the end of the world” for her or Yahoo.
‘Needs a Lot of Work’
He added that “people who I know who are experts” have said that the backend systems of Yahoo Mail “are terrible.” Kay said that this episode, including how long it took them to figure out what was wrong, is merely “a symptom of a system that needs a lot of work.”
Until this outage, Yahoo Mail has also been receiving a lot of criticism for its new interface. The design provides a more modern, streamlined look to the venerable email service, but it has also dropped some common functions, like tabs, and hidden others, like saving an email as a draft.
Thousands of users have posted complaints on the Yahoo user forum, such as requests for the company to bring back the previous design’s tabs. Eventually, Yahoo marked “completed” at the end of various posting threads to close them off.
Additionally, it has become quite common for Yahoo Mail users to encounter a notice that the system is busy or “we’re experiencing some technical difficulties” when one makes an attempt to retrieve mail.