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December 23, 2010

Skype blackout causes misery for millions

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by Brian Turner

Internet VoIP provider Skype has admitted that it is still losing around half of calls made through its network, after the service blacked out last night.

Problems began around 8:30 yesterday evening, when a series of Skype’s “supernodes” for helping connect numbers began to fail. In effect, Skype was unable to identify how to connect its own telephone numbers.

While Skype engineers have worked around the clock to try and restore service, a spokesman today admitted that of the estimated 20 million daily calls, it would be unable to rout more than half of these.

The issue has caused frustration for millions of Skype users around the world, attracted to Skype’s low pricing model for easy and accessible international calls using the internet rather than phone lines.

Skype has iterated that it is now attempting to build “mega-nodes” to use existing working network architecture to reroute calls away from known areas of failure.

It comes at a time when VoIP companies have been increasingly trying to challenge the stigma of VoIP being too unreliable in general for business use.

Dropped calls and unreliable lines have been a small but constant problem for VoIP users. While consumers focused on saving money have generally put up with small service problems, for business users greater reliability is essential.

Skype has already been courting large corporations to encourage them to move to Skype VoIP calling, so the existing blackout is likely to seriously dent confidence in its commercial reliability.

While it is expected that Skype will be able to recover ordinary calling services soon, it has advised that video calling may take longer to correct.

The incident is the worst since an outtage in 2007 took Skype two days to restore services, apparently caused by an update to its Windows Software.

Some commentators are suggesting something similar may have happened with the current incident: forget the blue screen of death - welcome to the abysmal sound of silence.

Story link: Skype blackout causes misery for millions


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