VoIP player Skype suffered a global outage in its free service on Wednesday, leaving tens of millions of users unable to access the service for several hours.
The outage came to light as Skype users in Asia, Europe and the US began posting complaints that the free service was down, with at least 20 million users cut off according to ReadWriteWeb.
Skype spokesman Peter Parkes revealed in a blog that the problem had been fixed by late afternoon US-time, but stated it would take “several hours” to restore service to all users, with features including group video calls likely to take longer.
The outage stemmed from a problem with many “supernodes” – computers that serve as phone directories to help Skype users find each other – going offline due to “a problem affecting some versions of Skype”, he explained.
“As Skype relies on being able to maintain contact with supernodes, it may appear offline for some of you,” Parkes stated.
Parkes didn’t reveal what caused the supernode knockout, but said Skype’s engineers were creating new “mega-supernodes” to “gradually return things to normal.”
The outage – the first major Skype downtime since a 48-hour problem in August 2007 – highlights the challenges Skype faces as it looks to evolve from a free VoIP/IM/video call service to a major, reliable service provider.
Tech blogger Om Malik said the outage could hurt Skype’s ambitions to target larger businesses stating he would be “extremely cautious about adopting Skype for business, especially in the light of this current outage.”
Skype’s latest stats report 124 million users as of July 2010, with 95 billion calling minutes made in the first half of the year - around 40% of which were video.
Telegeography estimates that Skype accounted for 12% of IDD calls in 2009.