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Great. Skype is down. (thenextweb.com)
102 points by b-boy-b on Dec 22, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 66 comments

Why are we down on Skype for their first outage in three years? My cable internet, electricity and cell phone service all fail more frequently than that. Once in three years seems pretty damn reliable to me, especially considering that I pay literally nothing to use Skype.

>> ...This is getting tiresome; trusted services going down...

That statement from the OP rubbed me the wrong way. Trusted services going down are a fact of life. It is going to happen. I agree Skype's last outage was three years ago which is a good track record compared to more traditional services that you might pay a lot more for. Other "trusted" services like electricity, water, heat, transportation fail from time to time even in the most modern of cities. The key is how a company responds to it, triages it, and communicates it to their customers (i.e. with frequent updates)

Hopefully, Skype provides a postmortem describing what happened and how they fixed it.

The statements by the OP rubbed me the wrong way as well. We always preach here that you should have a backup system in case a service fails, why should this be any different for real life? Network not available? Store updates locally and transmit them when it is. Skype down? Find an alternative for a few hours until it's back up. It's not the end of the world. Think of it as an opportunity to explore new products.

Note: I know some people rely on Skype for their businesses, and that it sucks that it went out. All I'm saying is that most people should have some sort of contingency plan for when this situation occurs.

This is the first time Skype has been down for our distributed company. In that same time, my internet has failed a half-dozen times and my VoIP phone a couple of times. Skype is definitely a reliable service - I'm interested in knowing what happened here to take it down.

Agreed. I get enormous benefit from Skype for next to nothing so the criticisms seem somewhat unjustified since most people fall into the same bucket (free.) It's still an excellent service IMO.

My landline at home has never* had an outage in 27 years.

* that I'm aware of

Landlines are from a different era of expected reliability. They carry their own power because it was considered too unreliable to depend on your home's electricity.

And that is a very healthy precaution. I really do not want to lose that security.

but it's not so necessary anymore. If my home line is down (which can happen since it's over ip), with a simple power outage, I can still call with my mobile. If my mobile is out of battery I can call with my girlfriend's mobile. Then the neighbours.

We have highly redundant communication systems compared to when landlines were the only option and SPOF in the building.

If your home line is down and nearby cell stations are not operational, then what? Pigeons? :)

It depends: what is the occasion in which the power grid goes down (or your IP carrier is down) and multiple mobile operators are down? Let's say: flooding, earthquake, riots, evil government shutting down telcos.

Then there is a high chance that also my land line would be down.

Thinking of it, I must get some homing pigeons _now_ ;)

Where do you live? I live in the Northeast US and I can remember multiple outages for my landline over the course of 20 winters and several blizzards. Roughly 5, wasn't really keeping track.

You've never had a bad connection? Or you dial a number and it doesn't go through and you have to try again? Or no trunk lines available when calling internationally?

No, I was mainly just thinking of dial tone. I have experienced "all circuits are currently busy" etc. but that's not quite the same thing in my mind as an "outage" as local calls, etc. still worked.

My landline has outages. For example, just a couple months ago, workers from the phone company intentionally disconnected my phone line while doing some tree trimming. Didn't even bother to knock on the door and let me know they were going to do it.

My landline is a digital phone form my wonderful cable company It's less reliable than the internet connection from the same company - "network is experience connection difficulties"

That is not what is generally meant by "landline".

That's what I thought when they told me it's all they offered in my area!

No phones that I could find were working on the morning of September 11th, landline or cellular.

honestly, you're right. It was just my initial reaction and the first words to come to mind when I wrote the title in my haste to get it out.

My cell phone service has never failed in my home.

My AT&T iPhone has never failed to fail in San Francisco.

My point is that many people would hold home phone service to a higher level of reliability than the ability to browse lol cats on 3G. The only reason I ditched my landline is because cell phone service is so darn reliable where I live. If Skype wants to replace landlines, it's not unreasonable for people to hold them to that standard.

you're welcome.

it's a pretty bad outage though. we're fixing it.

Is it still true that parts of Skype are written in Delphi? If so, can you comment on which part(s), and why that choice was made?

The Windows UI is using the VCL (Delphi's visual component library); it's easy to see with spyxx.exe or similar from the Windows SDK and viewing the window class names: tSkMainForm, TChromeMenu, TSkypeSplitter, TScrollBar, TAccessibleTntEdit (TNT Unicode controls), etc.

As to why it was chosen, I can briefly list my (biased) opinion as to the benefits of Delphi: an easier to use language than C++, proven IDE and framework, a lot of third-party code and components available, but without sacrificing low-level control to a VM.

Any hints as to the problem? Affecting Global Index or something else?

it's a bug :)

here's some official info http://blogs.skype.com/en/2010/12/skype_downtime_today.html

sadly and ironically the blog is also down :(

good luck to fix the bug, you have a great product!

Here's cached version:


22nd December 2010 Peter Parkes

Skype downtime today

Skype structureEarlier 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.

Stay tuned to @skype on Twitter for the latest updates on the situation -- and many thanks for your continued patience in the meantime.


Distributed whack-a-mole, sounds like fun.

the bug in what exactly? possible to disclose?

What's the story with Skype planning to charge for video calls?

Somehow I knew it would be this before clicking

I didn't know what the hell was going on. I got a message a couple hours ago saying that Skype had crashed. Not that it couldn't connect or anything, but a "Unhandled Exception blew the sucker up. Feel free to totally fail to load this in Visual Studio" message.

I didn't try to restart it, since I very rarely use it anyway, but I did find it quite odd since I've never seen that happen to Skype.

I've been really enjoying using Mumble for voip pair programming today during the Skype downtime. It's really easy to set up a server, and it has a lot more flexibility as far as mic sensitivity. I find the latter to be very useful when working in a noisy coffee shop or outside during the summer.


Mumble, while designed as a game chat system, is excellent for any kind of audio conferencing. It can be configured with very low latency (lower, in fact, than shouting down the hall) and CD quality audio.

I'm okay with this. Their last downtime was 3 years ago.

I still get robotic 'network busy' announcements from my mobile phone network, and I pay an awful lot more for that (under an infinitely more draconian contract) than I do for Skype.

I just needed to have a call with two people. For some reason, I could talk on Skype with one of them. The other one I called in via Gmail Voice Chat, so everybody could hear each other. Worked out great.

Skype is so rarely down that this did take me by surprise. Obviously they've been doing something right. Every other service that I use, even electricity, has been down more often. Heck, my favourite games are down every week, even every day.

Although generally Skype is very reliable, I think this does make a case for open, distributed systems, at least when it comes to something that many, many people and organizations are reliant on.

People make this argument every time something quietly critical fails or doesn't work the way they want it to. As a recent example, look at the completely false FUD about ICANN "seizing domains"; there were nearly instant calls for an "open, decentralized" DNS.

It's almost as if these proposed solutions wait for the slightest problem to occur, then everybody rushes to pitch a Tor utopia.

I personally would greatly fear a decentralized system like Skype, for many reasons. Peer-to-peer anything comes with its own truckload of problems, and would do more harm here than good (as with the DNS).

That's not exactly true, usually people are already working on distributed systems, and use the failure of centralized systems as an opportunity to point them out.

I personally would greatly fear a decentralized system like Skype, for many reasons.

"Greatly fear" seems hyperbolic. What do you find fearsome about a decentralized Skype?

would do more harm here than good

Such as? I think the adoption of Jabber for IM has worked quite well so far. If Facebook goes down, I don't have to worry about my Google Chat not working.

What problems do you foresee in terms of decentralizing audio/video along with instant messaging?

We already have a distributed voip platform. "distributed" in the same way as email is at least. Just set up a sip server with appropriate SRV records in the DNS. I'm not sure what Tor has to do with anything.

And as michaelchisari said, we already have distributed IM via the magic of XMPP federation.

Sorry you missed some steps there:

- Just set up a sip server with appropriate SRV records in the DNS.

- Discover that you also need A records (that now collides with webserver on your domain), because not every client supports SRV. (and some also need NAPTR)

- Discover that half of the phones are not compatible with your server out of the box.

- Discover that to support vendor A you need to enable X and to support vendor B you need to disable X.

- Discover that you cannot call users on network xyz.com because you're not authorized to.

XMPP, email, etc. are nice and well defined (yes, even email with all its problems) compared to SIP. SIP works ok-ish within one limited domain and one set of (clients-servers). It does not work between unrelated people. Additionally big internet telephony "supporters" like Cisco will do a lot to make sure your phone works correctly only with their gateway and almost nothing else (voip non-supporters like MS will do the same).

Yeah. I also didn't supply server setup instructions and service configuration examples. Sorry.

We do have a distributed voip network. But yes, it does need work to improve it. Skypes simplicity is what makes it so popular.

What I was trying to say is that currently - no, we do not have any sane working solution. It's not about setting up and configuration. It simply doesn't work as advertised. It's not distributed (unfortunately) and half of the industry works very hard to prevent it from being distributed (although I wouldn't attribute it to malice).

XMPP/jingle is in a much better position to be the distributed answer. SIP is not.

Ok, I was simply addressing this nonsensical comment:

"I personally would greatly fear a decentralized system like Skype, for many reasons. Peer-to-peer anything comes with its own truckload of problems, and would do more harm here than good (as with the DNS)."

Thank you for mentioning Jingle. I was not aware of its existence.

But spreading FUD about decentralized/p2p systems is OK, right?

With Skype, only the login/online status service is actually centralised. Actual calls are peer-to-peer.

At less than half of what I would be charged for my regular landline for calls to China, the UK, and NA I think it's fair to give them some slack and let them have a few hours to repair things.

Can anyone suggest a quick alternative to skype conference calling? Today is the one day I actually had an important use for this and it goes down...

A phone line could work, but is not ideal due to distance. Thanks.

UPDATE: Skype just signed me in. Anyone else have this happen? UPDATE2: Back down again after only a few minutes. Hopefully they're close to a fix.

We switched over to Skype as our primary tool for inter-office communication(s) a few years ago. It's been a fun day.

I've actually resorted to sending out e-mails (like it was 2001, hah!)

The lack of distractions is quite nice, though. =) It's amazing how productive everyone seems to be (when we're not complaining about skype being down...)

The Android app is getting loads of negative reviews today from people who think the app doesn't work.

A tweet doing the rounds is "Julian Assange is trying to make a private phone call so they took down Skype."

I dont pay for skype so I cant really complain if its down. But what about those who pay? I would be really pissed if I had a ton of skype credit and couldn't call.

Haven't searched much yet - does this have anything to do with the Skype protocol encryption being cracked and the people responsible leaking POC code before they release it to the world this month at 27C3?

It was already released back in August. I don't understand why you're getting downvoted, though; it must have been a very valid concern before Skype made any announcements.

Heh, well it's going to be a concern again after this month. IIRC they said they are going to release a more complete tool to let you explore the Skype network in general (besides just decoding packets for sniffing). In theory you can penetrate corporate networks wherever there is a Skype client running, and if they found a bug in an old version of Skype it's possible they could send a worm through the network and take out a lot of machines.

But maybe it is more likely that it was just an innocent bug. I just asked the question because it seemed like a big coincidence that Skype should go down right before these guys do a big exposee on the protocol and encryption.

I just woke up (I'm in New Zealand), read all the "Skype is down" stories and logged into Skype without issue.

Either I'm really lucky, or it's recovering.

EDIT: Spoke too soon. After being online for 15 minutes, it's gone offline again.

Yup, I was about to have a call with my advisor (across the atlantic), and neither of us could log in. I tried on an android phone and a linux box.

I actually rebooted my router, assuming that was why I couldn't connect to Skype. Don't think it's ever been offline before for me.

Upgrade to algorithm in progress... probably. Or some government getting a tap.

Leo Laporte is going to be pissed.

It's taking Skype too long to fix the outage.

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