If hanging progress bars and “still working” messages have become the norm for your Gmail experience, you’re not alone.
A thread on Gmail’s slow behavior started a couple weeks ago and continues to see new posts. The problems users are reporting — hang-ups on basic tasks and painfully slow searches — apply across all browsers and platforms. (Full disclosure: Gmail has, at times, been quite slow for me over the last few weeks, so I have a heightened interest in what’s going on.)
From what I can tell, this isn’t a new problem. There are no less than four other Gmail slowdown threads, dating back to spring 2009. And in January 2008, Scott Karp posted similar observations, in a blog post that got dozens of responses. Users in the latest thread say they started having problems weeks or months ago.
Google’s official answer to slow Gmail is a step-by-step guide that instructs users to configure their security software, disable or configure a pair of browser extensions (Better Gmail and Firebug), clear your browser cache and cookies and visit the encrypted version of Gmail, which is now the default. I’m pretty sure many users who are on Google’s support forums have tried these solutions, to no avail. Some Internet Explorer 8 users had luck uninstalling Flash, restoring their settings to default, and re-installing Flash.
At South-by-Southwest last March, Gmail team member Jonathan Perlow acknowledged the slowness issue, and said “We are fixing it,” but he said problems are mostly limited to power users with crowded inboxes. Some users who are complaining now say they’re nowhere close to Gmail’s 7508 MB allotment. (I am. But that raises a related gripe: Permanently deleting unimportant e-mails is no simple task unless you actively stay on top of it, and Gmail once promised that we’d never have to delete anything.)
I’ve pinged Google to see if the most recent wave of Gmail complaints is due to anything new, and if there’s anything else users can try. If I hear anything, I’ll update.