back to article Google Mail outage: Did you see that error message last night? Why the 'account does not exist' response is a worry

A Google Mail outage yesterday saw the cloud giant's server respond with the message "the email account that you tried to reach does not exist," potentially causing the sending server to give up, or remove the email address from lists, rather than trying again later. The outage lasted from around 21:30 UTC until just before …

  1. cornetman Silver badge

    I got this yesterday.

    I have to say that it loosened my bowels a little for a few seconds.

    It's amazing how much we depend on these services such that loss like this is so scary.

    Perhaps it is a good thing for us to get a reality check like this once in a while.

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      I agree. A wake up call.

      It made me realize just how screwed I'd be if my email stopped working. Since it's currently on a free service provider, that means I have zero recourse. So I spent my morning looking up (DDG) paid email hosting providers. I'll be moving to Protonmail just as soon as my payment clears & they send me the details for my new domain. If it fails after this point, the fact that it's a paid-for service will give me legal recourse should I need to bite them in the arse.

      Sorry Gmail, but you've just convinced someone that's been with you since needing an invite to abandon ship. You're convenient, I'll give you that, but you also read my mail, feed me ads, & hoover up everything you can about me. I'm sick of it. Once all my email subscriptions have been verified to go to Proton, I'll be adding Google to my Hosts file. Ciao!

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: I agree. A wake up call.

        "I'll be moving to Protonmail"

        Protonmail only allows plus-aliasing which far too many places don't accept as valid email addresses. If you don't care about that then Protonmail is great, but for people who want a bit more flexibility in handling aliases and multiple addresses I'd recommend Fastmail instead.

      2. Sir Bignose
        Flame

        Re: I agree. A wake up call.

        makes bugger all difference - proton mail down right now and I pay $$$ for the privilege.

    2. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Several years ago I stopped using freemail accounts for anything important.

      Privacy aside, I find Google in general (and Gmail in particular) to be unstrustworthy because Google can algorithmically terminate any account at any time. You're left with essentially no recourse if that happens.

      Screw that.

  2. andy k O'Croydon

    Missed headline opportunity

    "Did you see that ludicrous display last night?"

  3. Imhotep Silver badge

    You Get What You Pay For

    I have my email through a paid service. It's a minimal cost, my emails aren't read by Google (refer to earlier articles on ElReg to see what I mean) and I don't recall ever suffering an outage in the five odd years I've used them.

    1. Dr Paul Taylor

      Re: You Get What You Pay For

      If you look up the MX records of the addresses you write to, you will be astounded how many people allow Google to read and censor their incoming email.

      Google has decided that my personal domain is all spam, but doesn't return any error messages, as a result of which my emails have been going into a black hole for months.

      Anybody else had this issue? Any ideas what one has to do to persuade Google to accept one's emails.

      1. cd

        Re: You Get What You Pay For

        I keep telling people to register a domain at Dynadot or Porkbun and either buy email hosting as well or I'll set them up via my reseller account.

        In every case there is apathy until the kind of thing described in the article happens or their Yahoo account has 30k spams and they can't find what the want any longer.

        Eventually they'll catch up when the losses are the worst possible, meanwhile you can look up how to get your IP off whatever RBL Google uses. Perhaps your hosting provider can accomplishi it if they do it frequently. And if they do it with relative frequency, then find another provider and IP to send from. I've had those on shared hosting, nothing but one misery after another with soiled IP's.

      2. Dazed and Confused

        Re: You Get What You Pay For

        Google has decided that my personal domain is all spam

        Google started rejecting email from my server as SPAM, I found there was a way to contact them and get it taken off their SPAM list. Sorry can't remember where I found it, but I probably just Googled for it. But once found it was an easy process.

      3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: You Get What You Pay For

        We were on google's blacklist for a while. (Sorry, 'blocklist')

        DKIM helped, significantly.

        We needed to retire that server anyway, and sending from our new IP went through fine.

      4. Barry Rueger

        Re: You Get What You Pay For

        Anybody else had this issue?

        Yes. I wound up abandoning a .CA domain name for a new .COM one to get around it.

        Why anyone would trust Google for critical services is beyond me.

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: You Get What You Pay For

      "I have my email through a paid service. It's a minimal cost"

      Absolutely. People have become far too used to having email just there as a free service, so almost any cost is seen as too high. But considering how important email is to almost every part of your life these days, as effectively the sole online identifier, £5 or so a month hardly seems excessive. I pay about £5 per year for my own domain as well, and while that's optional it's still not exactly a huge cost. Hotmail and gmail seemed great when they first appeared, since the alternative for the average user was to be stuck with whatever their ISP provided and the consequent problems if they tried to change, or potentially even just moved house. But we're well past the point where the benefits of those free services outweighs the costs. The trouble is that the cost isn't monetary, so most people don't notice just how big it is.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "550-5.1.1 The email account that you tried to reach does not exist."

    "... perhaps rethink the circumstances under which its email system reports that a user does not exist."

    hum...

    So consider reporting that the _user_ doesn't exist, because the _email_ doesn't exist?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      I fail to see the confusion. The message speaks of accounts, the article of users, users have accounts, on Google users are identified entirely by their account as there is no independent username available to them, hence if an account doesn't exist, the user doesn't exist either. Therefore, the message which was sent should only be sent if a user has not set up an account with the specified name or the user's account has been closed. That wasn't the case, so we have a problem.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      user does not exist

      If big Google says you don't exist, who are you to argue, fictictious little person?

  5. Hooky
    Unhappy

    I question the given timings.

    The article says the outage started at 21:30 UTC, I received a number of rejections from known good accounts at 20:40.

  6. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Coat

    MAGA

    Make America Gmail Again

  7. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Facepalm

    TITSUP

    Total Inability To Serve Usual Purpose

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TITSUP

      Trimming Inbox Traffic, Some Users Panic.

  8. Gene Cash Silver badge

    I moved to Fastmail because I don't trust Google

    Google shat on a bunch of my friends, insisting they weren't using their real names, suspending/deleting their accounts and wanting driver's licenses, birth certificates and crap like that to reinstate them.

    With an unusual name like mine, I can see Google doing the same to me, so I moved to Fastmail. I sure as hell am not sending them personal documentation. They're not the bank or a government agency. Fuck 'em.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I moved to Fastmail because I don't trust Google

      The irony.

      Australian law effectively makes their IT service industry inherently untrustworthy:

      https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/dec/08/australias-war-on-encryption-the-sweeping-new-powers-rushed-into-law

  9. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

    Insecure validation or...

    Had this last night and couldn't send anything (but could receive). Apparently message was that I had insecure verification (I normally use K9 on my phone).

    This morning, all OK. Anything from Google? Nope. Unless you know where to look.

    Gmail refuses to send to my wanadoo.fr or orange.fr addresses. This is a problem for anything US linked (Paypal, eBay) so I am locked out under 2FA

    Time to get a 'proper' email address/provider and uae Gmail as my spam catcher...

    1. Palpy

      Re: Spamcatcher

      Yes, probably wise. I moved to Proton a while back, but the old Gmail account still catches spam for me.

      Here on the moist (very moist, this evening) northwest coast of That Continent Across The Pond, there have been portents of outages -- some messages to Gmail users have been undeliverable -- but only for a short period on Dec 15th.

  10. 759b954e-617b-408b-a2b1-f5a42c3688d4

    If you're not paying for the product, yada yada...

    How about actually paying a good email provider, then you have some recourse if things go wrong.

    Big plus: if you choose well, you won't be tracked into oblivion either. Double win!

    1. HereIAmJH

      Re: If you're not paying for the product, yada yada...

      Technically, we do pay for GMail. There is value in our digital footprint. We just aren't paying in a common currency. It's more of a 'payment in kind'. But make no mistake, Google is providing us a service and we are giving them valuable info in return. GMail is no more a gift than Google search is.

      Having said that, I'm depending more and more on my domain parked on GSuite and I'll probably look to move it onto another service provider, migrating away from Google mail servers.

  11. luminous

    But many of those people DO pay Google for G Suite. So it's not like they are whining about not getting service for a free product.

    Personally I only use my Gmail for Google services (analytics, console etc). The Gmail interface feels like I'm back at nursery school. It's just horrible, good that they still allow IMAP access.

    I've just today moved one of my primary email accounts to my server provider who has just rolled out their own cloud email service using Axigen https://www.axigen.com

    The pricing is very competitive, it includes mobile sync, calendar, todo lists etc, and the web interface is very grown up (Apple mail/ thunderbird like).

    1. hoola Silver badge

      I used Axigen for quite a few years for a small business that I used to work at and then continued to support. It is pretty good for what you pay with some nice features and the support was excellent. Earlier this year the third party they now pay for support deemed it was "Too difficult to manage" and moved everything to Office 265, sorry Microsoft 35<n>.

      I then was called upon to do the migration they had committed to as the fuckwits appeared to have no understanding of anything if it was not Microsoft in a web browser.

      I digress but am filing it firmly under "not my problem"!

  12. Natalie Gritpants Jr Silver badge

    You would think that Google would know how to do email.

    They pride themselves on having the smartest people on the planet, yet they come up with crap like this. Methinks it is deliberate to reduce the reputation of email as a communication system. All the large internet companies hate email as it is standard, open and mostly free.

  13. not.known@this.address Silver badge
    Trollface

    First AWS, now GMail...

    I doubt Facebook or Twitter will get hit next since that would prevent people wasting time on them and productivity in the Western world would go up... It IS the Chinese behind this, isn't it? Or is it the Russians again this week? Or do we have a third group of bogeymen to blame when things go wrong?

    1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
      Joke

      Re: First AWS, now GMail...

      it is obviously MS hacking other cloud providers to ensure that they can keep the JEDI contract by demonstrating the inability of others to provide a five-9 service.

      Of course, for MS services, the question is where to place the decimal point...

  14. Mike Friedman

    You get what you pay for. In this case nothing.

    When I stopped hosting my own mail I started using a web host called Bluehost. It has its quirks but it’s never gone down on me in 9 years. I pay about $8/month for a bunch of domains. They’re nice people too.

    1. nintendoeats

      I have my main email and webhosting through bluehost as well (2 dollars a month for 5 years). They are a little pushy about wanting me to use wordpress, but everything has been hunky dory for many years now.

  15. Jerry CB.

    Gfail

    Since the previous outage Gmail has stopped synching from my webmail account.I worry that Google has lost interest in my activities.Gutted.

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