Skype, the popular person to person video communication site went down globally today. This is the first time since 2007 that this has occurred. In a blog post at around 4:00 est, Skype addressed the issue and stated that engineers are working to fix the problem but that it may take several hours to be completely resolved.
For some, Skype is already working, but if there is someone with whom you wish to Skype, he or she might not currently have access to the service. Again, it could be several hours before everything is working properly.
In the vast majority of instances, the site is still not working propperly as of 8:48pm e.s.t.
Why is Skype down?
The Skype blog post attempted to explain it:
“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.”
What does that mean? The response is a bit complicated to understand, so let me try to explain what I think is happening.
If two people are communicating on Skype and the peer to peer relationship has been established across the network (according to “An experimental study of the Skype peer to peer VoIP system). Skype has various fail safes in case the initial connection between one or multiple parties is blocked (by something like a firewall).
A supernode is created when nodes are in areas with extra bandwidth and that are public (according to the same peer to peer study).
If you connect with someone on a regular basis and the two of you typically use the same computers, you are connecting by nodes. Supernodes are what finds the person when the node doesn’t work to immediately locate them, according to the Skype post.
The Skype post continues:
“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.”
Skype did not say why the supernodes are uncharacteristically failing today. To me, that’s the most interesting aspect of the entire situation! It is possibly too early to tell what has caused the problem.
Ironically, Twitter also was temporarily slow this afternoon on the east coast and the slow down could have partially been a result of increased traffic from people who were not using Skype (many of whom undoubtedly using Twitter for the purposes of complaining about Skype not working).
Click here for the official Skype blog post on today’s slowdown:
For the really cool study I cited on how Skype’s person to person VoIP works, click here: http://bit.ly/giOpUW
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