This time in Google news, Docs takes a nosedive but makes up for it nicely with new, discussion-inspiring features and other enhancements. Meanwhile, the search results page is getting yet another makeover. 

Not Their Finest Hour

The great Google suffered an outage that lasted one hour last week, limiting the accessibility of document lists, documents, drawings and Apps Scripts for the majority of their users. 

According to Alan Warren, Engineering Director, the culprit was a change designed to improve real time collaboration within docs, but ended up exposing a memory management bug. 

"Every time a Google Doc is modified, a machine looks up the servers that need to be updated," explained Warren in the official Google announcement. "Due to the memory management bug, the lookup machines didn’t recycle their memory properly after each lookup, causing them to eventually run out of memory and restart. While they restarted, their load was picked up by the remaining lookup machines - making them run out of memory even faster. This meant that eventually the servers couldn’t properly process a large fraction of the requests to access document lists, documents, drawings, and scripts..." 

Since the incident, the G team has been working on a list of steps which will they say will both reduce the chance of a future event, and limit the scope which any single problem can affect. 

Comment-only Access

In an effort to encourage more discussion, Google Docs was also granted with a comment-only feature, meaning people without editorial access can now view and add comments to your documents.

To enable the feature, click on the Share button in a document. From there, add in the contact you’d like to share your document with, and select Can comment:




"You can also choose to give comment-only access to anyone with the link or anyone on the web by changing the sharing settings within the document," explained Sarah Wu, Software Engineer. "To do this, click Change in the sharing settings window and change visibility options to Public on the web or Anyone with the link, then change the access options to Can comment."

If you’re using a Google Apps account, you can also click Change in the sharing settings and select either “People at [your domain] who have the link can access” or “People at can find and access.” Then change access option to Can comment.


Google Docs Enhanced

In other Docs news, Google has been working with advocacy organizations for the blind to improve accessibility. So far, the Internet giant has improved keyboard shortcuts and support for screen readers over several Google applications, including Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Calendar. 

"In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll continue to improve our products for blind users," writes T.V. Raman, Technical Lead, Google Accessibility, in the official post. "We believe that people who depend on assistive technologies deserve as rich and as productive an experience on the web as sighted users, and we’re working to help that become a reality."



Another Look for Search

Google's been testing different looks for its search results pages for some time now. This week we saw the removal of icons from Google’s vertical links (Everything, Images, Videos, News, etc.):


You'll also notice a new spot for the number of results there, just under the text field. The new home doesn't look like it will have an impact on SEO, and it falls inline with the other design efforts Google has made lately, but, I don't know, it seems a tad clunky to me. Personally, I'm not a fan of too much above-the-fold action. What do you think?