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What Was the Biggest Internet Outage of 2010?

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Updated. If anything, 2010 was the year when our reliance on web services went through the roof. Whether it was social networking on Facebook, calling our friends on Skype or remixing content on Tumblr, we spent an inordinate amount of time on the Internet. And just as our usage went up, so did our expectations of uptime and reliability of these services.

Nevertheless, as the recent Skype outage has shown, Internet-based services have a way of going down. Folks from AlertSite and Pingdom, two web-monitoring services, have put together a list of Internet outages that went down in 2010. I added some of my own to the list. Here is a summary of what I think were the top outages, followed by a small poll for you to pick the biggest web outage of 2010.

Facebook. Outage started on Sept. 22 and ended on Sept. 23, 2010.  Service went down for about a third of the Facebook subscribers on day one, and nearly 66 percent on day two. Cause: Third party network provider. Facebook had a major outage in April 2010 as well.

Twitter. It’s the most crash-prone social service out there, thanks partly to its communication underpinnings. Twitter crashed in Jan. 2010 in the wake of Haiti earthquake, then later during the World Cup in June 2010.

Skype. On Dec. 22 and 23, the Internet telephony service went on the blink for millions of users. The cause was described as some errant Windows-based (s msft) supernodes, but the real cause is still unknown.

Tumblr. The New York-based blogging service was offline for nearly 24 hours and most of its users were offline in early December. Tumblr described it as a database cluster failing during maintenance.

Updated: Gmail. Google’s (s goog) email service had a rough 20102009. It was offline for about 2.5 hours, and the outage impacted many users in Feb. 20102009. It went down again in March 20102009 for 36 hours, and in Sept. 20102009, routing issues caused the service to go on the blink.The Gmail outages actually occurred in 2009, not 2010. It’s a testament to how dependent we are on Gmail that it was still fresh in our minds. As such, I’ve removed the Gmail option from the poll.

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Foursquare. Down for 11 hours on Oct. 5 because of database problems. It crashed again on Oct. 6 for about six hours.

PayPal. In Oct. 2010, PayPal (s ebay) went on the blink for about 4.5 hours, again due to networking problems.

Bonus Mention: The hosted blogging service went down for 110 minutes in Feb. 2010 due to networking configuration problems. It took down a majority of the blogging world for a few hours.

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Disclosure: Automattic, the maker of, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

11 Responses to “What Was the Biggest Internet Outage of 2010?”

  1. Just got the following email from Tony Bates, CEO of Skype…

    “To our valued customers:

    As 2010 draws to a close, I would like to take a moment to thank each of you for your patience, understanding, and support during Skype’s recent outage.

    We know how important your Skype conversations are to you and we take any disruption to our service very seriously. We are pleased to confirm that Skype is back to normal allowing you to connect with friends, co-workers, family and loved ones.

    As a valued customer of Skype, we would like to offer you a sincere apology and credit you with an extra 7 days to your current Subscription at your next renewal date.”

    I experienced a number of outages with my phone provider AT&T this year, which resulted in much more downtime than experienced with Skype. Their customer service was appalling – defensive, evasive and unapologetic. And afterwards, there was no acknowledgement of the issue or offer of restitution. Given Skype’s openness to the issue and rapid response, I give them full marks for delivering a better customer experience than AT&T which has had a hundred year headstart.