refreshing error pages

Gmail used a novel way to deal with an error situation that I’d like to point out. It won’t work in all situations, but in their case, when a heavy load on the server was the cause of the error, it was very useful.

They made the error page refresh (every 30 seconds I believe), so when the server was not responding, I didn’t have to do retry manually until it succeeded. Now, there is the possibility of causing a heavy load if everyone’s browser is refreshing every 30 seconds, but of the load-related error pages I see, the message is almost always to please try again, so all this is doing is automating what people are asked to do by the error page.

It also means that a user may not even realize there was ever an outage. The page could get an error, but then a few minutes later refresh back to a working page and the user will never know there was a problem.

It’s cool to see innovation being done in areas where the general impression is that it’s all been done before.


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  1. Apparently it refreshes the inbox too? I checked my gmail account yesterday, left to do something else without logging out of the account, then came back and had a new message. I had not touched anything. I’m not even sure if that’s common with other email systems, being that I usually don’t just leave my account sitting around.

    Comment by Seth on July 8, 2004 @ 8:20 am
  2. Yes, it does refresh the page so you get new e-mail automatically instead of having to refresh the page every time to check.

    Comment by dan on July 8, 2004 @ 10:08 am
  3. My company (a web hosting company) implemented an auto-refreshing error page for excessive server load a couple of years ago, so it’s not exactly a new idea. But it is a good idea which should be implemented more widely.

    Comment by Eric James Stone on July 12, 2004 @ 12:03 pm

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