Google's Blogger service has been generating a steady stream of complaints from users this year, including hours-long outages, feature malfunctions and data loss.

The problems are particularly frustrating to users who migrated to the service's new version and expected to benefit from its more solid platform.

Users contacted in recent days via email report a variety of problems, including the disappearance of blog entries, an inability to post comments, failed migrations to the new service, kinks with the RSS feature and unresponsiveness by Google to support requests.

For its part, Google says that most bugs are isolated incidents affecting relatively few people at a time and that Blogger's stability will improve as the migration to the new platform progresses.

"We know how important a service Blogger is to our users, so the highest priority for the Blogger team right now is monitoring the migration to the new platform, listening to feedback from people who've migrated, and tackling as fast as we can the little bugs that inevitably pop up here and there in a new product," says Courtney Hohne, a Google spokeswoman.

Stable demand

This isn't good enough for Chuck Croll, an independent network and security consultant in northern California who hosts several blogs on Blogger including a work-related one called PChuck's Network and another one that tracks Blogger issues. "We were promised a more stable environment with New Blogger. That hasn't been one of the features provided," Croll wrote.

Google began testing this significantly revamped version of the service in August of last year, and removed the beta, or test, label from it in December. The "new" Blogger offers new and enhanced features, and Google says it is built on a more powerful IT platform. The "old" version suffered from serious performance and availability problems the last three months of last year.

In September, Blogger, which is free, ranked as the leading blog hosting and authoring service in the US with 21 million unique visitors, according to comScore Networks.

Phased approach to migration

Google is taking a phased approach to offering users the option to migrate to the new Blogger, precisely to nip bugs at the bud and limit their impact, Hohne says. Yet, the impact on some users has been significant. Kim Meyer is on the new version and disappointed with a smattering of bugs that have affected her blog, like photos not loading and an inability by visitors to post comments. "Lately I've been having more problems with the service that I don't think I should be having," wrote Meyer, a Blogger user for almost two years.

Laurie Jackson, who is on the old version, suddenly had archived posts disappear from her blog. She has been trying to get help from Blogger via multiple postings on the Blogger help forum and email messages to the support team. She has received two generic emails that repeat information available in the help section of the Blogger site.

"The biggest problem with Blogger is their lack of technical support/user service. Bloggers are largely left to their own devices when it comes to solving some of the problems that crop up from time to time," wrote Jackson, echoing a common complaint. "So right now I am rather annoyed with Blogger for not caring about us."

Michael Brooks, a historian and writer in Ohio, publishes several blogs in Blogger, and has had mixed success migrating them to the new service. Two attempts to migrate his main site, for example, have failed, resulting each time in an eight-hour outage. "I am leery of my next attempt," he wrote.

"While Blogger is a free platform, it is prone to outages and frequent errors. Most frustrating is when the site goes down in the middle of publishing a lengthy post, with the result that I have lost work on occasion that cannot be recovered. It is also difficult to get in touch with Blogger techs, and emails generally are met with silence," Brooks wrote.

Vexed by downtime

Mary Shelton, from Riverside, California, switched her blog to the new platform and is frustrated about the hours-long outages and availability problems she has experienced. "The timing of the outages has been unfortunate, because they were times when that was my free time to add to my blog," she wrote.

Problems reported on the new Blogger have some users feeling reluctant to migrate. "I am on the old version and am afraid to change due to the problems I have seen on the [Blogger] forum," wrote Jens Rosenkrantz Jr., who uses Blogger for his business' blog.

Still, the switch to the new platform has been positive for others who last year were about to give up on Blogger. That is the case of Robert Brinkmann, chair of the Geography Department at the University of South Florida in Tampa, who hosts several personal and work-related blogs on Blogger, including this one. "Generally it has been doing well. I’ve noticed that it goes through periods where it is a bit 'off' but overall it is fine," he wrote.

Others are more tolerant of the bugs. Laurie Kelley of Forsyth, Montana, has encountered problems with photos and comments on her blog but characterises them as "more frustrating than disruptive" and says Blogger has been working "fairly well" since she started using it in March of last year.

Google is confident that as the migration advances, and eventually ends, the incidence of bugs will diminish significantly, Hohne said. At this point, however, Google doesn't have a specific timetable for wrapping up the migration. It plans to continue doing it slowly and in relatively small groups, because that way, if an unforeseen bug emerges, it will only affect a limited number of users. Hohne declined to say what percentage of users are on the new platform now.

Bugs related to the migration are probably one-time events that, once addressed and solved, will not recur, she said. Overall, the feedback Google has gathered on the new Blogger is overwhelmingly positive, she said.