Google confirms its sync services killed Chrome browser sessions yesterday

Yesterday, we reported Google’s Gmail service was experiencing outages for a large percentage of users, which is something not that uncommon, but there also seemed to be widespread reports of Chrome crashing. Today, Wired pointed us to an explanation from Google engineer Tim Steele. He confirmed in a post on a Chromium discussion forum that the problem was related to Sync:

Steele wrote in a developer discussion forum, a problem with Google’s Sync servers kicked off an error on the browser, which made Chrome abruptly shut down on the desktop.

“It’s due to a backend service that sync servers depend on becoming overwhelmed, and sync servers responding to that by telling all clients to throttle all data types,” Steele said. That “throttling” messed up things in the browser, causing it to crash…. 

Chrome prides itself on “sandboxing” itself, so that a problem with a single webpage can only crash a tab in the browser, and not bring down the entire program. But that’s just what happened with Monday’s bug. It clobbered the entire browser.