Skype still dark for millions

Outage passes the 24-hour point for many; 'network software' problem unresolved

Skype Ltd. was still struggling today to bring its voice-over-IP service back online as disconnected users became increasingly angry over the outage.

According to user statistics gathered via an RSS feed, at noon Eastern time, about 3 million users were connected to the service, 5 million shy of the usual number logged in.

The last official word from the Luxembourg-based company was posted to its network status page at 6 a.m. Eastern time. "Skype is stabilizing, but this process may continue throughout the day," read the update. "An encouraging number of users can now use Skype once again. We know we're not out of the woods yet, but we are in better shape now than we were yesterday."

But in posts to the company's forums, users around the world contradicted the claim that service was returning, saying they still couldn't connect. Some, in fact, noted that although they had been able to log in briefly earlier today, Skype had gone dark for them once again.

"There was a moment for like -- a minute -- where it spontaneously went back online, but that's it," said a user identified as "inberlinagain" from Berlin at 9:21 a.m. EDT.

"While I am able to connect for longer periods of time now, it still drops out for 20-30 minutes at a time," said a user identified as "Bobalouie44", from San Antonio at 10:58 a.m. "I have not been happy with the Skype customer service during this issue," Bobalouie44 continued. "I am especially not happy with [their technical savvy] and ability to safeguard service in the event of a component failure. It may not be the end of the world to most people on here who use Skype for communicating with friends, but for some of us who use it to conduct business, or any people who use the PAID features, this is a big deal."

Other outside sources, however, seemed to back up Skype's assertion that conditions were improving. Mike Hellers, a London-based blogger, graphed the number of users connected to Skype over the last 24 hours.

The chart showed the number of users able to connect growing from near zero at 4:45 a.m. Thursday, peaking at close to 3.5 million around 2 a.m. today (7 a.m. in London, about the time that European users began logged in), but then quickly slipping to under 2.5 million. Around 8 a.m. EDT, however, the number of connected users began creeping above 3 million. "Over the past hour or so, the number of connected users seems to be slowly growing again," Hellers said. "Good sign, I guess."

Normally, more than 8 million people would be logged into Skype at this time of day, said Mark Main, a senior analyst at Ovum in London. "And [the service has] been going on and off every 10 minutes," Main added.

Officially, Skype has not spelled out the root of the problem, saying yesterday that it was due to a "deficiency in an algorithm within Skype networking software." Speculation that the outage was caused by a distributed denial-of-service attack, by errant Microsoft updates issued Tuesday, or by some previously planned maintenance that Skype conducted late Tuesday were quashed by the company.

"We'd like to dispel a couple of theories that we are still hearing," Skype said in a statement issued this morning. "Neither Wednesday's planned maintenance of our Web-based payment services nor any form of attack was related to the current sign-on issues in any way."

Skype first confirmed the blackout yesterday around 9 a.m. EDT. Users writing on the company's own message forums, however, began reporting problems connecting to the service as early as Wednesday afternoon, with reports coming from the U.S., South America and Europe.

Peter Sayer of the IDG News Service in Paris contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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