On Monday, two of the most widely used online services -- Gmail and Facebook -- went dark for large swaths of users. Naturally, the first thing many users did was note and complain about the outages on Twitter. In our highly unscientific examination of these tweets, we discovered that many users weren't too sad to see Facebook go, while the loss of Gmail seemed to be felt more deeply.
When Gmail's website became unusable sometime in the 11 o'clock hour on the U.S. East Coast, and later when Facebook became inaccessible for some members around 6 p.m. -- Twitter feeds, including ours, were saturated with complaints and jokes about the interruptions in service. Many expressed panic (both real and tongue-in-cheek) at being unable to view their email or their friends' pictures. Others saw a sign that the Mayan apocalypse prophecy was being fulfilled.
But the way reactions to the back-to-back hiccups diverged reveals a bit about how people use each website. When Gmail went dark, there was a real sense of anguish, based on our perusal of Twitter posts related to the incident. People were genuinely upset that they were unable to chat with colleagues and send work emails. Real work wasn't getting done for those brief few minutes.
Is GMail down? I'M NOT PANICKING BUT IS GMAIL DOWN
— Tom Pappalardo (@tompappalardo) December 10, 2012
GOOGLE (or at least gmail) IS DOWN. IT'S THE END OF THE WOOOOOOOOOORLD
— Dani (@sparklesdani) December 10, 2012
Good thing I had this cyanide capsule implanted in my molar for a day just like this when Gmail goes down.
— Evan Palmer (@evantickles) December 10, 2012
We didn't come across much relief or glee over Gmail being down. Here's a sampling of the reactions we turned up while searching through tweets about the outage:
I actually hope Facebook is going to be down for couple of days
— Magda...ツ (@MagdaPayne) December 10, 2012
You all moan about facebook when it is working and when its down you're all like slitting your wrists, sort it out all of ya
— Kali Jack (@KaliJack_) December 10, 2012
facebook is down... guess its time to use twitter #facebookFTW
— Luke Batten (@LukesBatten) December 10, 2012
Again, this is a casual observation of reactions.
More substantively, one analyst found a 1.1 percent drop in users in the U.S. (a market which Facebook has nearly saturated) during the first half of 2012. Facebook's score in the American Customer Satisfaction Index dropped from 66 to 61 between 2011 and 2012, a sign that users are growing unhappier on the network.
Take yesterday's outage as another reminder that Facebook's may be waning, at least in its home country. Perhaps the outage was cosmic justice for Facebook deciding to kil users' right to vote on privacy changes before they're enacted sitewide. Even if not, what Monday showed was people can't live without Gmail. But they can get along fine without Facebook.