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Google's popular email service Gmail, which has over a 110 million users worldwide, went offline at around 2 p.m. Tuesday, affecting users throughout the world, especially in Europe and India.

In a statement, Google said "a number of users" were having problems with Google Mail. "The outage itself lasted approximately two and a half hours from 0930 GMT. We know that for many of you this disrupted your working day. We're really sorry about this ... our engineers are still investigating the root cause of the problem," said Acacio Cruz, Gmail site reliability manager.

Now, Google is making amends for an e-mail outage by giving 15 days of free service to businesses, government agencies and other subscribers who pay for an expanded version of the product.

Apparently users accessing the web version of the email were experiencing problems, with the POP (post office protocol) downloading and mobile access through iPhone and Google's own G1 still working fine.

Users worldwide resorted to twitter, the Gmail thread registering about 100 tweets per second, to discuss the problems.

"Gmail is getting HTTP:502 errors from Gmail. Anyone else got this or does it just hate me today?" said a post on the twitter thread by sciamachy (screen name).

Not just that, another thread by the name of gfail was getting constant updates on the gmail snag.

"Trouble In The Clouds: Gmail Turns Into Gfail," crazyengineer posted on his tweet.

"We're aware of a problem with Gmail affecting a number of users. This problem occurred at approximately 1.30 a.m. Pacific Time. We're working hard to resolve this problem and will post updates as we have them," Google posted on its support page.

"We apologise for any inconvenience that this has caused," it added.

This is Google's second major technical failure in less than a month. In January, all Google search results were affected by what Google called a "manual failure" returning malware errors to every search query.

Google did not say how many clients were affected by the incident, but reports of trouble flooded the internet from all over the world.

Google stressed that problems with Gmail were very rare, but the incident was seen as a major embarrassment for the company, which is trying to persuade computer users to store more of their data online.

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Google now aims to educate Indians about power of Internet with its 'Internet Bus'.

The Internet-enabled bus will focus on the four themes - education, information, communication, and entertainment. It will be loaded with useful and informative content in English and Tamil. Google said it will showcase how the Internet can make everyday life simple through services like search, email, social networking, maps and others.

The bus project took off from Chennai yesterday and will reach Vellore tomorrow and will cover numerous cities in Tamil Nadu over the next month and a half.

You can visit the Internet Bus Project website to see when the bus will visit your city; get regular updates. You can also check out photos and videos as Google travels around Tamil Nadu.

Here is the schedule that the Google Internet Bus will follow:

03 Feb Chennai
05 Feb Vellore
06 Feb Krishnagiri
07 Feb Salem
11 Feb Erode
12 Feb Tiruppur
14 Feb Coimbatore
18 Feb Dindigul
19 Feb Madurai
23 Feb Tirunelveli
25 Feb Nagercoil
27 Feb Tuticorin

02 Mar Pudukkottai
03 Mar Tiruchirappalli
06 Mar Thanjavur
08 Mar Kumbakonam
10 Mar Neyveli
12 Mar Cuddalore
13 Mar Tiruvannamalai


One of the most fascinating tidbits from Google's announcement last week of offline capability for Gmail was this: The company says when it stores your messages for offline viewing, it tries to choose the most interesting ones. It's a sensible, if somewhat creepy strategy -- after all, why waste your disk space on messages you'll never want to read again? But after looking at the results on my own email account, I can't see any evidence that, in my case at least, Google is successfully separating the wheat from the chaff.

Here's exactly what Google says in its online support:
"We try to download your most recent conversations along with any conversations that seem to be important (regardless of their age). We also try not to dowload [sic] uninteresting conversations. This process is done heuristically and as with any heuristic can and will miss things. We'll continue to tune things up, but more importantly, we'll eventually provide a UI that will allow you to change the settings."

I asked a Google rep if someone could give me more detail on the process, but he declined. So we're left with this somewhat cryptic explanation. (When I first started hearing the word heuristic a few years ago, I thought it actually meant something. After hearing it applied to countless mysterious and diverse technological processes over the years, I've concluded that it's really just a polite way of saying "You wouldn't understand.")

So Google seems to be saying it analyzes your messages to figure out whether they're important or interesting (certainly not always the same thing). Does it do that by looking at the content (it already processes the content of your messages to serve up contextual ads)? Does it look at the activity a message engenders -- the number of responses, etc.? My guess is they'd use a combination of both methods.

But whatever the strategy is, it doesn't seem to be working, at least on my Gmail account. I looked at what Gmail did with uninteresting, unimportant messages and what it did with very important and interesting missives. What I found was it seems to be doing the exact same thing with both kinds of messages.

I started by looking at all the mail in my offline cache. Basically Gmail has kept a pretty comprehensive collection of my mail back to the beginning of December 2008, about 6,500 messages. It also kept other messages that have a few select labels. (Google says that it chooses some labels that will be completely cached. Here's Google's baroque explanation of how it chooses those labels: "Additionally, we'll download any conversation marked with a label that contains less than 200 conversations, has at least one conversation that has been received in the last 30 days and also has at least one conversation that's outside the estimated time period. For many users, this list of labels will include Starred and Drafts.")