Those who are part of the Google+ limited invite beta may have noticed a more than minorly annoying issue over the weekend. For over an hour on Saturday, the Google notification server sent out notifications for on-site actions – over and over and over and over again.
From the user perspective, what this means was that a single action (such as someone adding you to a circle) would result in as many as 50 messages. While there were plenty of complaints on Twitter, most users who were bothered by the issue took the simple route: completely disabling notifications from Google+.
Vic Gundotra, the Google VP of Social, used Google+ itself to discuss and respond to the issue. “For about 80 minutes we ran out of disk space on the service that keeps track of notifications,” he explained. “Hence our system continued to try sending notifications. Over, and over again. Yikes.” The real mistake being made was that Google didn’t expect to “hit these high thresholds” of server usage as quickly as they did, and thus didn’t scale the operation to accommodate the actual usage.
“Thank you for helping us during this field trial,” continued Gundotra, implicitly reminding people that this is still a trial version of the Google service. “And once again, we are very sorry for the spam,” he stated. His post received over 2000 +1s on Google+.
The server filling up should have been anticipated by the company (and Gundotra acknowledges as much), given that the company was intentionally doubling the size of its trial audience – which, prior to doubling, already reached into the millions. Hypothetically, Google is fully capable of running robust servers that accommodate a large market. However, the relentless spamming is hardly a bright sign of the current state of Google+’s server capabilities.