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Microsoft's Photosynth wilts under pressure

Brand new photo-stitching service fades to black for hours before returning

August 21, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Within hours of its launch, Microsoft Corp.'s new photo-stitching service went dark, overwhelmed by demand, the company said Thursday afternoon.

The Photosynth service was, however, back up and running by 7 p.m. EDT.

"We have been absolutely overwhelmed by demand, and have turned into a special static/read-only mode for the moment," Microsoft said in a post to the Live Labs blog early Thursday afternoon.

In an update added to the blog at 4:50 p.m., Microsoft claimed it was close to resolving the outage. "We are nearly there and will be back up shortly," it said. Attempts to access Photosynth, however, continued to be met with the message, "The Photosynth site is a little overwhelmed just now," until shortly before 7 p.m.

At 6:40 p.m., Microsoft said it had restored the service. " is back online. New synths are still turned off, but we will turn them back on shortly," the company said. Computerworld confirmed that the "Create your Synth" section of the site was live within about 15 minutes of that final message.

Photosynth, which automatically stitches together digital photos to create three-dimensional images, debuted late Wednesday. The technology used by the service -- users must connect to to upload photos, then manipulate them to create a 360-degree image -- was developed by Microsoft's Live Labs group, in collaboration with the University of Washington.

Microsoft acknowledged that the demand put on Photosynth had caught it by surprise. "Getting ready for the launch, we did massive amounts of performance testing, built capacity model after capacity model -- and yet, with all of that, you threw so much traffic our way that we need to add more," the company said.

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