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Google sorry after crash hits millions

Even the mighty Google is not infallible. The internet giant was forced to make a grovelling apology to millions of users of its Gmail email service yesterday, after the system went down for several hours.

A glitch in the Gmail contacts system locked users out of their email, and news of the system-wide failure caused an outpouring of angst on blogs and internet chat sites.

The service was down for about two hours, as Google engineers tried to discover the source of the problem. Many users were furious that the company did not post any update on its corporate blog. "Maybe the G stands for Gone," said one.

"We feel your pain, and we're sorry," said Todd Jackson, Gmail product manager at Google. "We never take for granted the commitment we've made to running an email service that you can count on. We heard loud and clear today how much people care about their Gmail accounts."

Gmail has been one of the fastest-growing free email services since it began testing in 2004 and was formally launched to the public early last year, with Google's billionaire founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page promising to revolutionise email in the same way their company revolutionised searching the web. And Gmail already had 90 million users by the end of last year, making it the third most popular email service on the web, after Yahoo and Hotmail.