Google personal homepages disappear

1 May 2007

Last Thursday, many users logged on to their personalised Google homepages to find that it had completely disappeared or had reverted to old settings from months, or even a year before.

User-specific information such as collected links and tabs were no longer present.

As Google Personalised Homepage allows users to add tools like Google Calendar and sticky notes, personal information such as to-do lists and calendar events also vanished, and some may be lost for good.

Last Thursday an official Google guide, on the Personalising Google forum, said: “For now, we’re not entirely sure of this, but it’s possible that changing your homepage theme might cause the problem.”

Feedback from the majority of Google homepage users indicated that most had never used the theme settings.

The Google guide went on to state that “We are definitely aware of the problem”, although there has been no official release addressing this issue as yet.

There are no definite numbers on how many were affected or what countries this data loss occurred in but users from Ireland, UK, France, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Greece and the US, among others, have all reported problems.

On Saturday the official Google guide updated the help forum, saying she “wanted to make sure everyone knows we fixed the problem and your homepage settings should be restored”.

For this writer, who had never used the theme changer, all my calendar, links, feeds and sticky notes have disappeared into the digital void, and as of yet have not re-emerged.

This leads to the question of how safe it is to rely on an online service such as Google as your sole storage for mission-critical data. Clearly, backup of some kind is required, and has been called for by some Google users.

Google’s popular Gmail service is used by millions and due to its large storage capabilities of over 2GB, many people use it to keep all their important emails, including attached documents and photographs.

If Google homepage can disappear then there is no certainty that Gmail is a reliable method of storage either.

Last Thursday’s data loss occurred at the same time that a planned routine maintenance of Google Calendar was announced and then cancelled, and users were assured that a future planned maintenance of Google Calendar would not affect other Google applications.

By Marie Boran