Google Down: The Perils of Centralization

Google was down for only an hour, but Monday’s outage served as a jarring reminder of how much modern existence online depends on the centralized search engine colossus.

From Gmail and Google Calendar to YouTube and even Google’s two-factor authentication, the outage temporarily ground online work to a halt for many, including publications that would have otherwise been reporting on the outage.

Moreover, it underscored the hidden costs of the easy-to-use systems that permeate the web, and just how taxing or debilitating they can be when the head of the many-tentacled beast that is Google nods off, even for just an hour.

“If an internet giant like Google can suffer such a major attack – denying millions of users access to basic internet services – it just goes to show that under the surface of the shiny web interfaces we see, internet infrastructure actually hangs in a delicate and vulnerable balance,” said Jaro Šatkevič, head of product at Mysterium Network, an open-source Web 3.0 project focused on decentralizing the internet.

Google down and out

According to a tweet from Google, the company suffered an “authentication system outage” that essentially rendered a wide variety of servers useless for about 45 minutes because the system was unable to confirm users were who they said they were.

It seemed to largely affect Europe and extended well beyond what people might normally associate with not being able to get into their email. On Android smartphones, for example, native apps like Google Maps ceased to work, and internet-connected devices through Google Home were seemingly also down.

Tal Be’ery, co-founder and security researcher at ZenGo, the cryptocurrency wallet company, said that, in theory, a decentralized solution that would have allowed users to authenticate their credentials with Google using other services might have solved that problem. Such solutions do exist; however, they were “probably not aligned with Google’s business…

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