The field trial for Google+ has hit a major bump in the road. On July 9th (Saturday), the notification servers went down for 80 minutes, resulting in a massive wave of notification spam to all users who were unlucky enough to get a notification during that time. The repeat notifications piled up, with some users reporting as many as 50 duplicate notifications for a single on-site action.
Vic Gundotra, Google’s VP of Social, addressed the issue, first issuing an apology, then explaining precisely what happened: “We ran out of disk space on the service that keeps track of notifications. Hence our system continued to try sending notifications. Over, and over again. Yikes.” He acknowledges company responsibility for the issue, saying that while “We didn’t expect to hit these high thresholds so quickly [...] we should have.”
How many users did it take to cause this outage? As somewhat ironically stated by Information Week, “Estimates put the number of Google+ users at 4.5 million or higher, which means Facebook has nothing to fear for now.” This statement ignores the current status of Google+: limited field trial. According to Eric Schmidt, millions more have applied for a Google+ account but haven’t been allowed in. Further, more recent estimates that used advanced Google search strings put the figure for Google+ users at closer to 10 million.
All that being said, Google is the group who determines how many users are allowed onto the service and who has access to information on server usage from each user. The thresholds certainly should have been expanded earlier, and the fact that they weren’t indicates that Google’s team may not be ready to handle a global social network just yet. Ths field trial, however, is designed for precisely that purpose: getting the team ready for the full release of the service.