"Bad, bad server. No donut for you". Orkut, the bottom-scraping dog of all the online services out there. Yes, it is owned by Google, my favorite online company.
"Please excuse us while our server is having a massage." - Flickr, the media darling photo site. Owned by Yahoo!
Cute, yes. But am I the only one who is so so pissed off? (In Eric Cartman's words). 'Free' services by these notable service providers means that we have to put up with sub-standard services. Instead of raising the bar on service and availability, why do I see that the bar is being lowered? Of course, Google is introducing new services quicker than people can say "We are not evil", but at what price? I remember reading and being impressed by the number of servers they ran, with their legendary clustering software and the GFS, but they can't keep a puny social networking site going? Or is it that 'Beta' means you get away with it?
I remember how in the early 0's I used to be impressed by Yahoo!'s uptime figures - they apparently had servers which had not been switched off for more than a year at a time. Now, every other time I log on to some online service, there's a cutesy message, asking me to twiddle my thumbs while the server gets a spanking or a massage or whatever the perverts at the data center can think up for it.
In the past two weeks, my favorite email app, GMail died on me once for no reason (I press the send button, and there is an error message from the server), and did not send out an important attachment on a different occasion.
There are some very maddening aspects to this attitude:
1. I'm not paying for the service. I am expected to be grateful that they are providing this service. I am also expected to be grateful that I am giving them eyeballs and the opportunity to make their billions off the ads I click on. I'd like to see Amazon have such a down-time. Because they stand to lose millions in lost transactions for every error, employees are on pager duty to ensure things go well. Things like diagnostics and support are taken seriously.
2. It's 'Beta'. So, STFU and play nice. Wasn't beta something you did for a few months while you ironed out kinks? Isn't 'software as a service' at least partly about the fact that you could fix things quickly on the server end? I won't even go into the time I was locked out of GMail for a whole day for no reason.
Orkut is apparently run by a three-person team within Google (Some business magazine I was reading talked of this as being a good thing. They obviously own or want to own Google stock and have never used Orkut) I am not surprised. With the quality of the site, it is obvious that three people with an IQ of 200+ cannot handle all of this.
There are unsexy things associated with running a website that the alpha-nerds at Google and Yahoo! need to learn. Things like uptime, maintenance, tech. support. When they learn this, maybe we can talk of Web 2.0.
Note: I am not panning any MSN services here because I don't use any other than MSN messenger. I am a fairly tolerant customer. These services have really raised my hackles, which is some achievement by itself.