Google Inc.'s Gmail service got knocked offline today in a widespread outage that affected most users for a few hours this afternoon. It wasn't immediately clear what caused the disruption, which led users to get a "502" error message. Google first posted of the problem at 3:53pm EST and says it was fixed by 5:40pm for nearly everyone. The company suffered a similar glitch in May.
Yesterday, Google notified users in a posting that problems with Gmail wiped out email to a "small subset" of users. It's not clear if that problem is related to today's outage. While such widespread problems are rare, they pose a growing threat to Google as it tries to sell more of its so-called cloud computing services to businesses.