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Summary:

It has been an interesting 30 hours for Skype, its community and its engineers. The outage that caused anxiety amongst millions who depend on Skype for communications exposed the fragility of our digital lives. And in this moment of crisis, eBay’s (EBAY) senior management was AWOL. […]

It has been an interesting 30 hours for Skype, its community and its engineers. The outage that caused anxiety amongst millions who depend on Skype for communications exposed the fragility of our digital lives.

And in this moment of crisis, eBay’s (EBAY) senior management was AWOL. Ebay and Skype management are happy to talk to the press when delivering the good news, but in this crisis situation, the silence was deafening.

Ebay CEO Meg Whitman, Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, and other Skype management made no statement, gave no assurances to their community, leaving their PR agency and the blog to keep people informed. Of course, this led to even more speculation, rumors and innuendoes.

Sure their words wouldn’t have brought the service online faster, but it would have made it clear to Skypers that eBay’s management cared. Skype President Henry Gomez has background in corporate communications, so he should know a thing or two about crisis management communications.

Ebay bought Skype for $2.6 billion indicating that it was making a bet on the future of distributed communications. Unfortunately, the senior management didn’t learn how to communicate!

  1. Great point. Communication is key, and in this case, as you said, the silence was deafening. I’m a fairly new Skype user, and had come to depend heavily on it, as my bosses are in Europe, and I’m in the States. I’m glad it’s back online.

    This is a good lesson for all of us in the business world. Crisis management, and crisis communication, are not tested on a daily basis. But when that test comes, there’s a short window of opportunity to connect to and communicate honestly with your customers.

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  2. I bet they had no idea how large the outage was. Obviously it shows, with no communication to users. All they can say is take a deep breath? How about a $0.10 cent refund to all Skype users, lol

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  3. Hmmm… could eBay be undergoing a braindrain?

    For one, Maynard Webb, the former COO of eBay, is now CEO LiveOps, a “virtual call center”.

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  4. Sebastian Moser Sunday, August 19, 2007

    I think that was on purpose. I’m sure Skype and eBay top management did something behind the scenes and talked about communication matters but decided to leave the users think this was a Skype-issue, not an eBay-issue.

    Because what’s even more threatening is, if people thought “What happened, when eBay was suddenly offline two days?”.

    Keep people thinking Skype was its own company in bad times, but take the positive image in good times.

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  5. I agree with you Om…they have a lot to learn even from Mattel crisis management (see my post http://www.vincos.it/2007/08/18/mattel-ci-rimette-la-faccia-luso-del-video-nelle-crisi-pr/)!

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  6. [...] is back up again, but slowly the impact of the outage is becoming clear. People are talking about mismanagement at EBay’s side. Others are talking about the fragility of our digital lives and how one major [...]

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  7. How do we know that eBay didn’t CAUSE the outage with some kind of integration project?

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  8. You are too harsh. At least in my opinion, I am glad eBay management did not get involved. In fact, they get involved relatively little in the day to day at Skype so why should this be any different. This was just a growing pain for Skype and they managed it wonderfully. If you look at their blog, the overwhelming response has been on of support and thanks from customers. Why mess with such a great response to a blackout?

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  9. Spot on, Om! I’m not sure, but I think that companies that are listed on the stock exchange are obliged to follow some rules when it comes to sensitive information (is that why we will only get an official statement on monday?).

    But it would have been so much better for Skype’s reputation if some members of the management would at least have let us know that they care!

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  10. I don’t know how hard it is to say that their servers didn’t work and apologize, probably Ebay wes busy trying to bring their stock back and care less about the customers.

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  11. It is rather common that companies act like this with their products.

    In this case Skype sells communications but they don’t believe in communication.

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  12. @Buzz:

    I am not sure about rules constraining a public company: recall prior examples from Tylenol, Union Carbide and even Ma Bell (http://www.mocaedu.com/mt/archives/000319.html).

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  13. George Bernard Shaw said “The problem with communication is the illusion that is has occurred.”

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  14. This is a “no brainer,” you apologize and show that you are committed to preventing it from happening again, and you plan to take the following steps (fill in the blank).

    Public companies are prevented from making certain statements regarding “financials” prior to release, but I seriously doubt that it extends to situations like these.

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  15. I thought Skype did a pretty good job considering… they posted regularly with updates and tackled the problem. I suspect they didn’t realize it was as challenging an issue as it turned out to be. In some ways, management could have made it much worse by talking it up. And why throw yourself to the wolves? Many large companies have had outages- and we’ll probably see more in the future. It will be interesting what Skype has to say this week.

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  16. Skype, Webservices and System Redundancy

    So, like the rest of the planet we have had a Skype-Outage for a lot of the last few days….its sort of back up now, with a few people appearing and disappearing here and there. However, I read of companies that have stopped using landlines and are now i

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  17. Skype Crisis: Where were the eBay Management?

    This story has been submitted to Stirrdup. Your support can help it become hot.

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  18. Skype outage highlights their bigger issue

    Bloggers around the world have been all over the recent Skype outage that lasted around 30 hours, cutting off phone a…

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  19. Isn’t this a bit of an over-reaction on the part of the community?

    Skype went down, wooptedoo…

    I use skype for work conference calls, to call my family back home (I’m a British guy living in the USA), all that good stuff, but I’m not stupid enough to not have a cell and a landline also.

    I just don’t think it really matters what happened, it went down, it’s back.

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  20. [...] Skype Crisis: Where was the eBay Management? It has been an interesting 30 hours for Skype, its community and its engineers. The outage that caused anxiety amongst […] [...]

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  21. Sigh the usually media over reaction to a normal Murphy’s Law event.

    A chicken little event!!!!!

    Big woop…
    Chill and move on.

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  22. Ahhh…I think Skype communicated fine.

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  23. [...] Malik points to the silence of eBay management when their VOIP phone company’s services were down for more than 24 [...]

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  24. I have to side with some of the commenters, who don’t think eBay’s involvement would have been an improvement.

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  25. Skype Crisis: Where were the eBay Management?

    It has been an interesting 30 hours for Skype, its community and its engineers. The outage that caused anxiety amongst millions who depend on Skype for communications exposed the fragility of our digital lives. And in this moment of crisis,…

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  26. [...] people have accused Skype and parent eBay of insufficient communication in a time of [...]

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  27. Skype is a separate company based in London. Ebay is the parent. Aren’t there some web 2.0 fluff apps to pump, its monday, the skype story was last Thursday’s news, not todays.

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  28. [...] GigaOM, blogger Om Malik writes:  And in this moment of crisis, eBay’s senior management was AWOL. Ebay and Skype management [...]

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  29. The technical explanation that they have given for what happened is nothing short of bull. I would really like to know what happened. You cannot take a fully functioning system and bring it to its knees completely for almost 2 days just because of too many logins – you can slowly allow logins again and as they build so will the stability. They have lied to us and they are covering up something bad.

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  30. Lead like a lion? Or lead like at ostrich?

    Today my pal Andy Abramson posted thisLeading From the Back Ironically, I started on this post on Saturday, but being my wife’s birthday weekend, I left this sit. It seems Om was thinking along the same line and penned his piece which I hear has a lot…

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  31. [...] I started on this post on Saturday, but being my wife’s birthday weekend, I left this sit. It seems Om was thinking along the same line and penned his piece which I hear has a lot of the hedge fund types and Wall Street sharpies questioning eBay the same [...]

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