Skype: Down But Not Out

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Credit: Flickr / dominiekth

The internet telephony service Skype got a good deal out of the net neutrality vote earlier this week, with the FCC deciding that Skype and other voice services like it could not be banned or throttled on broadband networks. But services in the past 24 hours seem to show that Skype doesn’t need an operator to bring it down; it’s perfectly capable of doing that itself.

What happened exactly? According to a Skype status update issued earlier today, it all came down to a software glitch in its supernodes. More specifically, “The ability of one Skype user to find another relies on what we call ‘supernodes’, and yesterday, a number of these failed due to a software issue, which we’ve now identified. Our engineers are working to resolve the problem.”

Apparently, this involved a “handful” of Windows clients failing, which set off a chain reaction. Not a great advertisement for P2P networking, it seems.

This fail eventually resulted in a worldwide outage for the service that lasted into the early hours today.

Services now appear to be ramping up rapidly. At 10:00 AM Eastern time, the time of the status update, the company said there were about 10 million people using the service, or around a third of their normal numbers.

By 11.30 AM, in an interview with Om Malik, Skype’s CEO Tony Bates said that number had gone up to 16.5 million, with Europe and the east coast fully restored, with video, IM and audio services all working.

The first fires that Skype fought, unsurprisingly, were those involving their paid-for products. So its enterprise product, Skype Connect, was one of the first services to get working again. Bates says Skype will be “issuing formal compensation” for those users who have been affected. As yet, the company has not released details of what that will entail. We will update when we know more.

The outage comes as a disastrous time as Skype traditionally makes a very big deal of its service and how much it’s used over the Christmas and New Year holiday period. Ironically, before their world crashed yesterday, Skype was promoting a special holiday offer for a month of free calls worldwide.

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I was one of the victim of Skype’s ” Dance “. When I was trying to logon as I did everyday, I wasn’t able to do that yesterday. When I was checking my internet connection as I thought that the error was from my side, I saw the news on BBC and understood it wasn’t my error or my network error. I hope everything is fine now.

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