Updated [This story was updated on April 27 to indicate that Google says it has resolved the problem and was able to restore user settings. Users posting on Google discussion groups would seem to confirm this.]
Google users are going ape crap after settings and data they've amassed over months have suddenly gone missing from their personalized homepage. According to the posts of hundreds of users on Google's discussion boards, sticky notes, tabs, links and other customized settings vanished earlier today.
Personalized homepages allow users to add local weather, email inboxes, headlines and other features to the start page they see each time they fire up Google. But evidently, not today, at least not for everyone. While some users reported their personalized pages had effectively vaporized, others said settings had reverted back to those used several months ago.
According to a post from an official Google representative going by the name of Jaimie, exterminators are "in frantic-chase-down-this-bug mode here at the Googleplex". Jaimie said they still don't know what is causing the problem, but they are advising people not to alter their personalized pages because that may only make things worse.
"The big question I know you'll all want answered is whether you'll get your homepage back once we sort things out... and the really honest answer is that I hope so, but I just don't know yet," Jaimie added. That has done little to calm frayed nerves.
"This is an answer that I would like not to hear," a user named Teo replied. "People stored data on the personalized homepage trusting Google: it would be vary bad for your image if you lost all the data. Should we still trust gmail?"
Over the years, the many free services offered by Google and its competitors have become indispensable to many of us, but they also bring to mind the old adage that we get what we pay for. And Google's personalized homepage isn't the only such service to show signs of untrustworthiness.
Recently, hackers have discovered that Google Calendar can be a trove of information for outsiders looking for details about conference calls and other group events that organizers presumably wanted to keep private. Want proof? Log in to Google Calendar and search for "moderator passcode." (Our thanks to the folks at Zero Day for the useful search term.)
In all likelihood, you'll now have phone numbers and entry codes for hundreds of presumably private conference calls. With a little imagination, who knows what else you can find? ®