Gmail Went Down Today, and Somehow Yahoo Came Out as the Loser

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Jan. 24 2014 7:21 PM

Yahoo Manages to Turn Gmail Outage Into Its Own Disadvantage

If there is one company in the world that probably should not be crowing about someone else's brief email outage, it's the one that just spent a good chunk of December dealing with massive email outages of its own. But crow it did, capitalizing on a rare hourlong Gmail outage to tweet a news update about its rival's misfortune to its 1.1 million followers, complete with screenshot.

Not surprisingly, some found a certain chutzpah in Yahoo's tweet. Realizing its misstep, the company followed up with a rather cryptic explanation ... and then a public apology.

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Passive voice, as everyone knows, is the sincerest voice for an apology.

Oddly, this utterly transparent, calculated attempt to help Yahoo's cause did not end up helping Yahoo's cause. "Pathetic" was Farhad Manjoo's verdict. "Grow a Spine, Yahoo!" hooted Valleywag's Sam Biddle. When you earn the scorn of both Manjoo and Biddle at the same time, it's a good bet you're doing something wrong.

The consensus is that Yahoo had nothing to apologize for in the first place. But I'd argue its real mistake was misidentifying the victim. The only thing harmed by Yahoo's tweet was Yahoo's own image. Apologizing to Google was like throwing a stone from your glass house, watching it drop harmlessly to the ground as the shards rain down on your head, and then apologizing to the person who's standing out on the sidewalk laughing at you.

GigaOm's Tom Krazit may have summed it up best.

I think it's safe to say the Marissa Mayer honeymoon is over.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Previously in Slate:

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.