Google’s Gmail service crashed for nearly 20 minutes yesterday, at the same time as millions of Google Chrome browsers around the world crashed. Despite happening at almost the same time, the problems were unrelated.

Google gmail crashed

As Google’s email service went down, millions of consumer and enterprise users were left without access to their e-mails, which are stored in the cloud.

Some initial reports suggested that a denial-of-service attack was to blame, but before long, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) offered an apology and update in a statement made on its dashboard status page:

“Although our engineering team is still fully engaged on investigation, we are confident we have established the root cause of the event and corrected it.”

The search giant suggested that users were affected for a total of 18 minutes between 8:54 and 9:00, and 9:04 and 09:16 Pacific Time, although some users reported the crash caused 40 minutes of down time.

The situation went from bad to worse when millions of Google Chrome browsers started crashing all over the world – some crashed multiple times within a short period.

Google Chrome uses a feature that allows it to run each browser tab in a separate thread, which prevents the whole browser from crashing when one tab encounters a problem with a plug-in or some bad web coding. However, yesterday Chrome crashed indiscriminately and completely, wiping out any unsaved work on users’ browsers.

But despite the two issues occurring within short time spans, the problems were not directly related. Google engineer Tim Steele wrote on the company’s developer forums that the browser problem was caused by Google Sync, which then had a knock-on effect on Google’s other services, such as Gmail, Google Docs, Drive, and Apps.

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Sync allows users to keep their browsers in sync when they log into a different machine. The bookmarks, extensions, apps, and settings are then pulled across to the new Chrome browser when they log into the other machine. Google misconfigured its load-balancing servers, causing the widespread crashing of browsers. Steele explained the problem on the developer forums:

“Chrome Sync Server relies on a backend infrastructure component to enforce quotas on per-datatype sync traffic. That quota service experienced traffic problems today due to a faulty load balancing configuration change. That change was to a core piece of infrastructure that many services at Google depend on. This means other services may have been affected at the same time.”

So, to put it simply – Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) changed something in their systems, which didn’t work, and then caused crashes.