Gmail Email Deletion Blamed on New Software Update

If you have been following the recent news, Google had a major outage where emails were being deleted for certain users. Google did acknowledge that the problem was affecting around 0.02% of their users and have been continuing to work on fixing those issues.

Google has now posted an update on their official blog explaining what exactly went wrong. According to the updates, Google basically rolled out a new software update to their storage software which caused an unexpected bug. This bug affected around 0.2% of users.

The bug was quickly spotted by them which led them to perform a rollback to the earlier version of the software. Google is still continuing to fix the problem and even though they have multiple backups of user emails, most of it was corrupted by this bug. Google is now reportedly restoring these emails from tape backups, which have remained offline and not been affected by this bug.

However, users who were hit by this bug will not receive emails sent to them between 6:00 PM PST on February 27 and 2:00 PM PST on February 28. So if something important was sent during this period then the email sender will have to send it again to you.

Rest assured, outages such as these are not acceptable and it was really bad on Google’s part to roll out software which could cause such a problem. Though I love using Gmail, I would certainly not be happy if my emails are not delivered or if someone cannot send me an email.

Hopefully we will not see such problems in future again. If you have been affected by this problem, you can check the Apps status page for updates on the issue.

Auto Expiring Emails Concept – A Big Step Towards Zero-Inbox

Last week I had about 5890 unread emails in my personal Inbox. I spent a couple of hours and managed to shave off about 2500 of those emails. In the week since then I got approximately around 1000 new emails more, and now my Inbox count stands at a grand 3649 emails.


Mind you, I don’t get lot of spam, but most of these unread emails in my Inbox are months old and in most of the instances have been sent to me more than a year ago. Now you would say that I am a lazy boy, but I am not. I use several devices to read my email and some of them support POP and some support IMAP. While most of the emails I read these days are through IMAP (which is synced with the server), my read emails are also marked as read in .

But what about those emails which are lying around unread for months and years. Some of them may not even be useful to me anymore. Some of them may just be marketing emails which have already expired. So aren’t those emails useless, shouldn’t they just go away?

Well they don’t do it right now, but a new proposal by Joshua Baer, CEO of the e-mail company OtherInBox makes a lot of sense to me. He is pitching for a standard which will allow emails to auto-expire on it’s own without the user having to delete it.

Well, before you raise your eyebrows, let me explain this feature in a little more detail with some examples from Joshua himself. Let’s say a shopping newsletter you have subscribed to sends you an email with offers that are valid from February 26, 2011 – February 28, 2011 – Now you as a user forgot to check that email and those emails remain in your Inbox forever without any use. The offers have expired and you definitely will not be able to get those no matter whether or not you check it later than those dates. So wouldn’t it be good if those emails just disappeared from your Inbox altogether?

Well this is just a use-case example where emails would know till when they are relevant and then automatically delete itself? Yes it would, and it would be more than useful to so many users.

However, implementing this would not be easy. First of all it would have to become a standard which is implemented by all the current email providers for it to make a significant impact. Secondly, there might be a lot of problems which will be associated with features like these. Let me elaborate about them in brief:

  • It would be a severe overhead for email providers to expire emails, they would basically have to run checks every minute on all of your Inbox to find out when emails expire. Unless the Email standards are changed to incorporate a new database structure to quickly query all the existing emails this will not be implemented across the board. This may require modifications to the POP, IMAP, Exchange and other custom protocols in use today.
  • Email providers just can’t delete emails without user consent. If they start doing this they would be in a lot of trouble.
  • You will get lot of spam/hate emails which expire in 15 minutes or so, and if these emails are deleted without consent it could cause a lot of trouble.

Well, these are the few things that pop up in my mind right now, but I do believe that there would be several other things which could cause problems once this is implemented.

However, I also do have some suggestions on how this could be used with user consent and also on just specific emails. Here are my thoughts:

  • Extend the filtering feature in emails to provide an option to expire emails from certain email addresses or “keywords” after a while. This could be done outright or when the email contains the proposed expire headers
  • Add small UI changes to show when an email is expiring so that people can act on them.
  • Allow users to browse expiring emails through an internal folder which populates such kind of emails.

Some of these features are very easy to implement and won’t take much time. I am really looking forward to the expiring emails feature becoming a reality and will be more than happy to test it out.

Do you think that such a feature would increase your productivity? Do you have any other great ideas that could change the way we use emails? Do feel free to let me know your thoughts.

Google Introduces 2-Step Verification Process for Secure Logins

Most of the web applications built today rely on user passwords to allow secure access to data. This process has been in practice for a long time, however, passwords can easily be hacked.

Google Account Settings 2-Step Verificaiton

Also at times there are vulnerabilities in websites which lead to database hacks allowing exploiters to gain access to user data, including passwords. Many banks today provide a secure login to users where users have to provide a password and a verification code which is usually sent to their mobile numbers. This form of authorization is very secure as users will only be able to login if they have the passwords and their mobile phones.

Google has today introduced a similar 2-step verification process for all the accounts where users can opt-in to securely login using their password and a secure code sent to their mobile phones.

To enable the 2-step verification with your Google account, head over to your Account Settings page and turn on the 2-step verification. The verification setup will guide you through the process and also allow you to setup backup phones so that you can login even when you have lost your current phone.

Google 2-Step Authentication

Once you have setup the 2-step verification process, you will have to first login and will then be sent a code through a message which you will have to enter before you gain access to your account.

The 2-step verification process is a really good more from Google since it will allow users to keep their data safe even when their passwords have been compromised. For users like me who rely on Google for email, contacts and more, this is something that will definitely make using Google more secure.

Gmail Lets You Print Documents From Your Mobile Using Cloud Printing

Google has been working on using Cloud printing in their browser and . The Cloud printing feature allows users to add their current printers to the cloud and then print to it from anywhere.

Print Gmail emails using Cloud Printing

This feature is currently in beta mode and it does not work many times. However, looks like Google is now trying to make this feature more mainstream by allowing mobile users to print their emails on the cloud printers they have setup in their accounts.

First off, the cloud printing technology is tied up to your Google account and you can set it up here. Secondly, you will have to leave the connected PC on for this to work. Thirdly, this only works with Windows based PCs right now, although support for Linux and Mac OS X is on the way.

Once you have set up your printers to the cloud, you can then visit from any mobile device and choose Print from the dropdown box to print a document. The document will be printed on the Cloud Printer you choose from.

The new feature is currently being rolled out to US English users only. There is no timeline on when this will be available for other countries and languages.

How To Import Facebook Contacts To Gmail

I know that there are several ways to import your contacts to , one of which includes first importing them into Yahoo, and then exporting the address book, and then importing it into Gmail. However, that process is pretty long.

If you really want to import your Facebook contacts to Gmail, a   will come in pretty handy. The Chrome extension  called Facebook Friends Exporter provides users with an option to export their friends information from Facebook as a CSV file. The information you can export includes your Friend’s name, emails, phone numbers, screen names and websites. The good part about the extension though is that it also allows you to import these contacts into Gmail in a single click.

Export Facebook Friends

Once you have installed the extension, you will see an addition menu item called "Export friends!" in Facebook. Clicking the link will advice you to go to your friends page, however, the extension can also do that automatically for you.

On the next page, you will be shown a message about Facebook owning your friends and disclaimers which you have to accept. Once you do that, you can Get started with importing your friends and storing it locally.

Import Facebook Contacts to Gmail

The extension will then cache all your friends in and start importing them one by one. The process might take a while if you have a lot of friends and takes breaks in between (after it has accessed 60 of your friends profiles, otherwise Facebook will start displaying images for email address). Once the entire import process has been completed, you will be given an option to import your Facebook contacts into Gmail.

Facebook has been very strict about any script accessing contact information about your friends and have even banned users, so you might want to tread with caution here. Nevertheless, the script works and it’s hassle free, so go ahead and try it out if you really want to import your Facebook contacts to Gmail.

Download Facebook Friend Exporter

Free Calling for Gmail Phone Extended Till 2011

A few months ago, Google introduced phone calls in Gmail. This feature allowed users  to make calls to several countries through Google Talk and is powered by Google Voice. Back then Google had promised to provide free calling for users in the United States and Canada till the end of 2010. However, Google has now extended the free calling through till 2011.

Gmail Phone Call

In a recent blog post Google said that they will be extending free calling to US and Canada numbers till the end of 2011:

When we launched calling in Gmail back in August, we wanted it to be easy and affordable, so we made calls to the U.S. and Canada free for the rest of 2010. In the spirit of holiday giving and to help people keep in touch in the new year, we’re extending free calling for all of 2011.

Gmail Phone calling has been quite a success with more than 1 million calls being placed in the first 24 hours. Though there is no official numbers on how many calls have been placed till date, it should be somewhere close to a billion or even more.

Do you actively use Gmail’s phone calling feature? Are you satisfied with the call quality? Do let us know through your comments.

(Official Gmail Blog and Official Google Voice Blog)

No, Google Won’t Share Gmail’s Encryption Keys With Indian Government

What is this Gmail encryption key which the Indian government want’s so badly? I hear you say.

You might remember that in August 2010, the Indian Government literally forced RIM to   allow access to its encrypted email and messenger data to the Indian security agencies. RIM agreed in setting up local servers in India to manage the encrypted email data of its Indian users.

Same drill with the renowned mobile manufacturing company -Blackberry. The company was allotted the deadline of August 31,2010.

But when it comes to Google and Gmail – the issue gets bigger. And more serious.

A Google executive has made it clear to security officials of Indian Government that under no circumstances, the company will share the encryption key of it’s email service with Indian security officials, reports TOI.

Google India products chief Vinay Goel said that the company can’t help the Indian government with the encryption keys for two reasons.

First and foremost, the Gmail service is governed by U.S laws and it’s impossible to offer real time access of Gmail to any Government official. The second reason is of course the privacy of Gmail users, sharing the keys might lead in compromising the privacy of Gmail users in India

In Mr Goel’s own words:

When users entrust their data with us, we are expected to protect it, which is why, user privacy is very important for Google. The Union home ministry or telecom ministry has not asked Google to share the encryption keys for Gmail, but even if the US based internet search engine giant received such a request, it will be impossible to offer real-time access to Gmail communication.

Mr Vinay Goel added -“Google is open to offering access only if there is a large scale risk to human life or property“.

But this might be unacceptable to the Indian Government because such a situation isn’t going to knock your door a week ago so that the security experts can contact Google authorities saying -” Hey ! Give us those encryption keys right now or else, our websites and email accounts are at risk.”

I am no law expert but India’s Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008, gives the necessary authority to India’s security agencies such that they can demand that service providers provide the decryption keys available to them, when required.

Could this be because of the recent hack attacks on Indian Government websites ? That some crazy Indian group hacked three dozen Government’s websites of Pakistan ?

Will the Indian government ban Gmail (like they threatened Blackberry and RIM), if Google does not comply with India’s cyber laws and specifications?

Lot’s of questions and speculations. We will have to wait and see what happens in the coming days.

Now You Can Grant Other Users Access to Your Gmail Account

Google has recently announced a new feature that allows anyone else to delegate your email on your permission. This feature does not require you to give away your email username and password and has been available for quite some time on Google Apps.

All you need to do is go to Settings -> Accounts and import -> Grant access to your account, which can be seen on scrolling down the page.

Once you enter the email ID (necessarily a Google ID) and setup an account for access, you can operate two accounts in the same browser simultaneously and this allows you to send and receive mail as the second account. Needless to say, use this feature only with people you trust the most.

Signing out of any one of the accounts will sign you out of the primary account. This official video explains this feature better.

Gmail Adds The Ability To Restore Contacts List To An Earlier Time

Gmail’s undo send feature is a lifesaver. Once you have activated the undo send option from Gmail settings, you can cancel sending an accidentally sent email after hitting the “Send” button.This is useful when you realize that you have accidentally sent the email to a wrong person or you should add some more information to the message that has already been sent.

Recently, the Google developers increased the Undo send limit to 30 seconds which is even more useful for slow movers like me. But such is not the case with Gmail contacts, you are not able to restore an accidentally deleted email address from Gmail’s contact manager. Either you have to manually add the contacts or you have to delete everything and start from scratch,   provided you have a back up copy of your Gmail contact list saved elsewhere.

Good news, the Google developers have just added a new option under Gmail contacts which lets you restore your Gmail contact list to an earlier time.

To get started, log in to your Gmail account, click “Contacts” from the left pane and choose the “More actions” drop down menu. Then select the “Restore contacts” option as shown below:

This will open a small browser overlay window where you can define the time when you want the contact list to be rolled back. The general options include restoring the contacts to 1 week, yesterday, 1 hour and 10 minutes. However, if you feel you had accidentally deleted someone a couple of weeks ago, choose the “Custom option” and enter a date of your choice.

Hitting the “restore” button works like a charm, the previous state of the contact list is restored automatically. Works exactly the same way as “System Restore” in windows, it’s just the fact that you can’t define an auto backup option for contact list within Gmail settings. Handy !

Google Friend Connect Exploit Allows Users To Harvest Emails

TechCrunch is reporting that an exploit in Google Friend Connect is allowing users to harvest email addresses for logged in users when you visit a website. This exploit was harvested when a user visited which is now blocked by Google.

According to TechCrunch this happened when you were logged in to your or Google account. However, only your email address was harvested so this is not only a big security hole but also a big privacy breach.

Google FriendConnect Exploit Email

Once you visited the said site, you would receive an email to your logged in address as shown above. Scary right. Google is already fixing it as we speak, we will update this post once we receive an update from Google.

Update: Google Spokesperson Lily Lin sent us the following statement:

We quickly fixed the issue in the Google Apps Script API that could have allowed for emails to be sent to Gmail users without their permission if they visited a specially designed website while signed into their account. We immediately removed the site that demonstrated this issue, and disabled the functionality soon after. We encourage responsible disclosure of potential application security issues to [email protected]