139 Comments

Summary:

If you are one of Skype’s many users who use the service to make a living or talking to your remote users, then you are straight out of luck. The service this morning is down and the outage is impacting millions of users.

Programmable networks could mean less downtime.

Updated with response from Skype: If you are one of Skype’s many users who use the service to make a living or to talk to your remote users, then you may be straight out of luck. The service this morning is down and the outage is affecting millions of users. So far there is no word from Skype or no comment on their blog as such. On Twitter, Skype posted: “Some of you may have problems signing in to Skype – we’re investigating, and we’re sorry for the disruption to your conversations.”

Sorry, not good enough! Skype is one of the key applications of the modern web. According to a recent study, Skype accounts for about 0.57 percent of all Internet traffic. It has become a major telephony provider. For the first six months of 2010, Skype had 6.4 mbillion billing minutes versus 10.7 billion minutes during entire 2009. Skype logged 88.4 billion Skype-to-Skype minutes during first six months of 2010, versus 113 billion Skype-to-Skype minutes in 2009. Clearly, it is already a hit with consumers, and over past few years it has become part of the economic fabric for startups and small businesses around the world. I am not sure we can comprehend the productivity cost of this outage.

Here is a visual interpretation of the Skype outage and its impact, via Phil Wolff at Skype Journal. He points out that in terms of impact this is a much bigger outage than Skype outage in 2007.

In theory, Skype, which is based on peer-to-peer networking technology shouldn’t see an outage. But that is not really the case – the company has a massive infrastructure that it uses for purposes such as authentication and linking to the traditional phone networks. It is not clear why the current outage happened, but it is something that makes me pause. (Updated: Skype responded. See their response at the bottom of this post.)

The outage comes at a time when Skype is starting to ask larger corporations for their business. If I am a big business, I would be extremely cautious about adopting Skype for business, especially in the light of this current outage. I think Skype is at a critical point in its life – its investors are trying to shepherd the company towards the big corporate customers. The hiring of new CEO Tony Bates from Cisco Systems is only firms my belief that Skype is slowly starting to ignore its core and passionate user base who are happy to spend money on its products – consumers and small businesses.

More importantly, Skype is facing increasing competition from new services, many of them having shown that they can keep pace with the Internet telephony behemoth. It is not six years ago when Skype had an advantage of riding on the back of the file-sharing service Kazaa to attract new users. In the age of Twitter and Facebook, word of mouth has taken on a whole new meaning. The recent launch and fast growth of Viber, a no name free VoIP company, shows that Skype can’t rest on its laurels.

More importantly – it needs to ensure that it is doesn’t go down. Even for a few minutes.

Skype just responded

Skype isn’t a network like a conventional phone or IM network – instead, it relies on millions of individual connections between computers and phones to keep things up and running. Some of these computers are what we call ‘supernodes’ – they act a bit like phone directories for Skype. If you want to talk to someone, and your Skype app can’t find them immediately (for example, because they’re connecting from a different location or from a different device) your computer or phone will first try to find a supernode to figure out how to reach them.

Under normal circumstances, there are a large number of supernodes available. Unfortunately, today, many of them were taken offline by a problem affecting some versions of Skype. As Skype relies on being able to maintain contact with supernodes, it may appear offline for some of you.

What are we doing to help? Our engineers are creating new ‘mega-supernodes’ as fast as they can, which should gradually return things to normal. This may take a few hours, and we sincerely apologise for the disruption to your conversations. Some features, like group video calling, may take longer to return to normal.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

  1. I love it when Geeks flip out during Outages.

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    1. This affects my business tremendously because I converse with a ton of my customers on Skype. As much as some want to play this down, if it keeps up it will cost us and many others a lot of money.

      I am not a geek by the way:)

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      1. You get the service for free.

        That’s your fault.

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      2. Why does Vio think you get the service for free.
        I pay more to Skype than I pay my Adsl provider.
        It may well be the case for John too!

        I have a phone number that rings on Skype on my laptop, and for that i pay every month.

        People need to understand that not all is free on the Internet, and the companies like Skype who get hundreds of millions of revenue from their customers must provide a matching level of service.

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      3. I don’t get the service for free either… I pay for my SkypeIn, I pay for SkypeOut, and I rely on it to communicate with family members overseas and with some customers…

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      4. After reading through all the posts, and since I deal with different people and personalities almost every day [I am sure you can guess what business field I am in], most of you guys/gals that don’t pay for Skype or pay for Skype, I predict

        A. You will get angry enough and ask for credit while threatening to cancel which is a bluff behind the scenes
        B. Complain to Skype support, like that will get you anywhere. It may to an extent. LOL
        C. Say that you will go with another provider, then cave, and end up staying.

        By the way, You will go through another outage. 60% chance that they will have another one within 3 months.

        D. You will use another service and try to migrate your customers, but will most likely fail because people DON’T LIKE CHANGE.

        YOU WILL COME BACK TO SKYPE. It is only human nature.

        E. Continue to vent to yourself and others on multiple communication tools like twitter, facebook, gigaom, the Skype support site, etc

        F. You will try to forget this ever happened and be a “carefree business owner”, but;

        By the way, You will go through another outage. 60% chance that they will have another one within 3 months.

        G. What ever business processes you have integrated with Skype that you cannot do like, communicate; LOL, you will blame it on Skype.

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    2. That’s funny. Reminds me of the time one of the Blizzard servers went down and millions of WoW pansies simultaneously had a stroke

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      1. @ Rs:

        LOLOL To completely made my day. I reposted that comment Facebook. You sir/madam, win 100 internetz. Best comment I’ve seen in a long time.

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  2. Jesus. Why did you even make this article? Skype has been down for maybe 50 minutes. 50 minutes… and you’re blabbing about how it can’t be trusted and about how it’s let down millions of people?

    You pretentious little prick.

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    1. Nice manners, mr. anonymous

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      1. It’s not like he isn’t right. It was still working less than 10 minutes ago here. Has it occurred to you they might be having technical difficulties, as opposed to “wanting more money”.

        Does your business do everything perfectly every single time?

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      2. It’s been down for at least 3 or 4 hours, so don’t be an asshole. Imagine if you showed up to work and you couldn’t talk to any of your customers. You’d lose patience pretty fast.

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      3. 50 minutes? If only. I haven’t been able to use my skype accounts on various locations and various systems, at all.

        One success was to connect directly to an already open chat window from last night, but that was it. Nothing else. I can not even login and it’s been nearly 6 hours.

        50 minutes. I wish!

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    2. Anonymous, what part of “over past few years it has become part of the economic fabric for startups and small businesses around the world. I am not sure we can comprehend the productivity cost of this outage.” didn’t you get? Some people’s livelihood is connected through Skype. Sure, there are other ways, but Skype is a great way to keep in touch with clients and connections. More professional than Twitter or Facebook.

      Besides, it’s not like San Diego Comic Con’s website going down, or World of Warcraft going down for a couple of days. Those are luxuries.

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      1. I agree too. I am connected to my girlfriend through skype and it is very frustrating for me to sit here and not talk to her.

        I love Comic Con by the way

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      2. Wow. Comic Con AND a girlfriend. Well done, sir.

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    3. I agree. For a service as innovative and free for many applications, I think we should be grateful and allow Skype to take us into the next generation. Are we disappointed, sure, but do the majority of us understand? And will most of us go back who currently use Skype? Yes. I hardly think one outage is going to bring society and Skype to its knees.

      Lesson learned…move on.

      Did you write about BP, by chance, Om?

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      1. Skype is only FREE for skype-to-skype calls not as a VIoP provider, you have to pay for that which many do especially businesses.

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    4. no, it’s been down for a few hours already and is affecting my business!!!!

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    5. Totaly agree.

      This could happen to everyone.

      Need to be patient, usually such global outages could be fixed fast.

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    6. Block this person!

      1) Uses non-constructive language, to say the least.
      2) His problem may have been 50 minutes, but I’ve
      been out of Skype for over 10 hrs now, and am in the middle of an international collaboration.

      That said: this service has been free of charge so far.
      And it’s been one of the truly great break-throughs of the 21-st century in terms of international communication.
      It’s been a blesssing !
      Still, no reason to go name-calling for either side.

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  3. Blackberry still has massive centralization prone to go down and take mass users with it. But the network effect isd what sets bb and skype apart. Assuming this is a glitch it won’t really have an impact. But sdomeoner somewhere is not having a good morning at skype.

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    1. I agree. I have lived through many Blackberry outages but there aren’t as acutely felt.

      I think Skype is too big and too integral to our web lives and these outages have a price/impact.

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      1. Agreed. The assumption we mistakenly make is that these large companies have massive redundancy and fail safe systems in place such than an outtage, however unlikely, would only impact a small batch of customers. As we’re seeing here, and with the BB outtages, that this is often not the case. Facebook went down and they had to “reboot the server” recently. The thing I like about Vonage is that it offers a fail safe routing # that re-routes calls to that number in the event of an outtage. It’s a nice little feature. Sometimes simple solutions are enough to appease the audience. Skype really should consider such a solution.

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  4. Is your other name John Wayne – if not stop shooting from the hip.

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  5. I appreciate your outrage, Om, but in the end, every cloud-based service is going to have outages from time to time. That’s just the nature of things. This is why many people, like John Dvorak for example, argue against relying on the cloud too much.

    But frankly, it isn’t just the cloud that this happens to. Airplanes break, and flights get canceled. Cars break down, and subways get delayed – people miss face to face meetings this way. Anything technological is going to fail at some point or another. Expecting something – anything – to work 100% of the time just isn’t realistic.

    And no, I don’t own stock in Skype :P I’m just sayin’…

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    1. Agree, Verizon has trouble with there landlines, T-1s all the time yet people still buy.

      I do agree though Skype’s response is just like traditional companies which means it sucks. They need to not aspire to being Verizon but a Zappos.

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      1. They pushed out two messages pretty quickly on Twitter, what exactly are you expecting? A by the minute update? A live webcam watching their engineers stressing out?

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      2. +1 –
        live long enough in Tech. world and you know – nothing is 100% fault proof (even a distributed system like skype.

        all in all i think they manage their growth in subscribers and MoU fairly well (remember the 5 9th threshold?)

        (on a side note i find this is an interesting lesson to learn about the soft spots of such architecture)

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    2. Well said Nergol.

      Om Malik, I appreciate your outrage as well. But the outage happens with everything and every company. Not achieving the absolute 100% up-time is not enough grounds to think Skype may lose grounds with businesses.

      Thanks all.

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    3. Amazing number of ignorant geeks – including those who “don’t” own stock in Skype.

      I imagine Skype is sweating the outage especially since they’re in process of preparing an IPO.

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  6. I love it when Geeks, 99% of whom PAY NOTHING for the service, flip out during outages.

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    1. How do you know that I am in that 99%. Frankly, we do a lot of business on Skype and it is my main phone resource and I spend a bundle on it. And no, no one flipping out. Of course, that is something you might choose to imagine :-)

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      1. Da Boi Bruce (SwaggBreezy Fresh) Wednesday, December 22, 2010

        Lawl, this scrub right here.
        Seems like the 99% are flipping out. Get on Yakity, god stop whining and use other types of communication.
        Oovoo, Ventrilo, Team speak. god stop blabbing bout nonsense.

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      2. I love how most people just want to complain guess they have nothing better to do. I see why you posted this your reporting a big Issue like you I use it for work and run my business on the back of it. but i am also old enough to remember the Ma Bell of the old days when just digging around would put 1000 phones down so i have a backup like land line and google voice so something like this wont affect me dont know why more people dont and yes i am a old biker geek!!! LOL

        Keep up the great work Malik

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  7. Is it just or am I the only one who “it needs to ensure that it is doesn’t go down.” doesn’t make sense to?

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  8. [...] Malik, one of my favorite journalists, appears to be really (and I mean really) mad at Skype being down. I mean the last time I saw Om this mad, the Rangers [...]

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  9. Completely ridiculous. The server went down less than 10 minutes ago. It’s not like it’s a complete disaster. Has it occurred to you that they might be going through technical difficulties?

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  10. Om, I think after 6 years of near perfect service, you could cut them a break. Facebook has suffered more major outages these past two weeks. I’m sure the people at Skype want their product up and running again with even better failsafes than better, and I am sure they are doing this with as much passion, if not more, than you have for Skype.

    Is it alright to be upset? Ya. But to say they are completely unreliable, and to essentially burn them at the stake? No.

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