Skype recovers from massive failure

  • 2007-08-21
  • By Mike Collier
TALLINN - Internet telephony service Skype is working again after several days in which users were unable to connect.

The Estonian-founded company, which was bought by eBay in 2005, experienced what it called a "critical disruption" on Aug 16-18 when millions of users were unable to log on to the service and some media commentators began to question its reliability.

Skype spokesman Villu Arak said: "The disruption was triggered by a massive restart of our users' computers across the globe within a very short timeframe as they re-booted after receiving a routine set of patches through Windows Update.

"The high number of restarts affected Skype's network resources. This caused a flood of log-in requests, which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, prompted a chain reaction that had a critical impact.

"Normally Skype's peer-to-peer network has an inbuilt ability to self-heal, however, this event revealed a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm which prevented the self-healing function from working quickly. Regrettably, as a result of this disruption, Skype was unavailable to the majority of its users for approximately two days.

"The issue has now been identified explicitly within Skype. We can confirm categorically that no malicious activities were attributed or that our users' security was not, at any point, at risk."

Skype's telephony service is used on average by 8-9 million people around the world at any given moment. Despite the company's stated policy of denying that Skype is a replacement for traditional landlines or other telephone services, that is the role it is increasingly playing, with businesses and individuals easily tempted by the prospect of free calls to other Skype users and rediced rates on calls to landlines.