Friday, October 27, 2023

Bitten by the Black Box of iCloud

Dan Moren:

While I was nominally able to log back into iCloud, most of my data wasn’t actually syncing back. A dialog box told me that I needed to verify my account in order to re-establish end-to-end encryption for sensitive information like my keychain and health data, but clicking the prompted button did…absolutely nothing.


Other services, like Find My, were totally dead, refusing to show me any information. Even third-party apps that rely on iCloud to provide syncing—Ivory, for instance—had issues. Attempts to log in to via multiple browsers and devices all came back with a connection error.


Now, in my initial forays on social media, I had gotten a reply from someone on Mastodon mentioning that Apple’s iCloud servers were sometimes put in maintenance mode for 12 hours—but upon going back and looking for that specific reply, it was nowhere to be found. […] There was, according to this support agent, nothing to do but sit back and wait, then call back if service hadn’t returned by the 12-hour mark and reference my case number.


Overall, the experience was confusing and irritating. If this was a server maintenance, upgrade, or migration situation, why not simply tell me? Would it shatter the illusion of iCloud as a monolith of silently functional services? (Breaking news: that illusion was thoroughly punctured anyway.)

Bugs and outages happen, but trust is a lot harder if there’s no transparency. If there’s scheduled maintenance that will cause a service disruption, a good provider will even notify you in advance. Moren’s iCloud service did come back at the end of the secret maintenance window, but he lost a folder in iCloud Drive and had problems with reminders syncing.


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