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A Wake-up Call--GMail's downtime

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Friday afternoon's GMail disruption should be a wake-up call to each of us for how vulnerable we as individuals and as a society are to disruptions of Internet services. I firmly believe that the most dangerous terrorist threat is not suicide bombers or crashing planes into buildings, but teenagers in the Ukraine or China, or wherever else we've had problems originate, shutting down vast swaths of the Internet and watching as the world grinds to a halt.

Here is an interesting article from Salon which humorously discusses yesterday's reaction, but I seriously think we need to worry-- a lot.

Friday, Jan 24, 2014 02:09 PM CST

The agony and the ecstasy of today’s Gmail outage For a few glorious moments, a fractious, divided nation came together. One nation, out of many broken inboxes Andrew Leonard

When Gmail went down, there was much rending of flesh and gnashing of teeth and spontaneous #whengmailwentdown Twitter poetry. And then Gmail was back up, 15 or 20 or 25 minutes later, and we all went back about our business. With maybe a nervous chuckle and a rueful grin, cause jeez, there’s nothing that illustrates our cultural dependency on a giant Silicon Valley corporation than a few horrific minutes without access to our email!

If you were reading a book, or riding your bike, or maybe just having lunch (or under the age of 25), you might have missed this profound cultural moment. Heck, I didn’t even realize Gmail was down until I checked Twitter, and got smacked around by the collective howl of disconnection.

But that chorus of ad-libbed gmail commentary — equal parts snark and woe and incisive analysis — gosh, that was something. Partisan divisions, culture war skirmishes, gender hostility … all gone. When Gmail went down, we became one nation, out of many inboxes. The reaction to the Gmail outage probably caused a sharper drop in productivity than the outage itself.

There’s something sweet about seeing such unity forged from catastrophe — however fleeting that unity might be, however quickly we returned to our own demarcation zones soon afterward. But the whole episode was also a disquieting reminder of digital vulnerability. We joked to hide our nervous realization that our daily lives are now significantly defined by the connectivity delivered to us by a tiny handful of corporations. When Gmail went down, we got a useful wakeup call.

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I have a Gmail account only because I had to get one for my phone. I mostly use Hotmail, but use filters that get rid of (almost) all of the junk. Both accounts are linked to a separate email account on my phone, so if one or both go down I can at least get to older email even if I can't send anything.

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The interface on Google Mail drives me nuts. Hate it. I had to use it for a year when I worked for a corporation that used it for company-wide emails, and it was just awful. It has to be bad when it can even exceed Microsoft Hotmail (now Microsoft Live) for sheer stupidity and ugliness. Yahoo Mail I can barely stand, though they've "improved" it to the point where it's almost 50% as bad as Google Mail. They all suck, plus they're sluggish and slow.

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I looked at Incredimail, and it wasn't incredible enough for me. I have about 11 email accounts, and most of them converge on my real identity (and my own domain). I have sub accounts on Yahoo and Hotmail as needed for business and personal use, with ways to relay messages so that if I can't get to my POP account, I can just get on the web and send people a reply with a different "reply to" address.

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