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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Skype outage continues, slowly getting better



Yesterday Skype, the popular communication network that enables phone calls over the Internet, experienced a massive outage. For the 560-million registered users and many businesses who depend on the network for daily voice and video calls, the timing could not be worse. screen_shot_2010-12-23_at_1.17.17_pm.pngWith many people wanting to reach out to friends and family at holiday time or conduct end-of-the-year business, the outage has caused quite a buzz. Here's an official statement from Skype as to what happened:

Earlier today, we noticed that the number of people online on Skype was falling, which wasn’t typical or expected, so we began to investigate.

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.

Today Skype reports they continue to work on the problem and that more than 10-million users are back online. That's left than half of their 23-million peak user base, so right now you have about a 50/50 chance that Skype is working. If you were planning to use it for a holiday call to someone overseas or in the military, you should start working on a backup plan just in case.
The Google phone feature that's part of GMail (after installation of a plug-in) is a good option with free calls in the U.S. and Canada, low-rate international calls and video chat.



[Last modified: Thursday, December 23, 2010 1:26pm]


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