For millions of businesses and people, Skype is a vital way to contact others. Midday Wednesday it went down…and stayed down. In a blog post today (Thursday), Peter Parkes of Skype says that the system is up for about 5 million users, but two-thirds of Skype users cannot connect, meaning 12 million people have been disconnected for a full day.
The problem, Parkes says, stems from a software issue affecting what the company calls ‘supernodes,’ or the Skype equivalent of phone directories. To connect to another user, your call is routed through one of these supernodes.
“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,” writes Parkes. “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.”
Many of these supernodes went down and Skype has been working to restore them, presumably one-by-one, ever since. In the meantime, the VOIP company is creating ‘mega-supernodes’ to help people get back online.
This is Skype’s second major outage this year. If it continues, it may well surpass the company’s record, a two day outage in 2007. With about 17 million daily users around the world, Skype is one of the most popular voice over IP services on the market. It’s bad when Websites like Tumblr go offline, but Skype is a critical communication tool. Let us hope they are working to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future.