Millions of Skype Internet phone users worldwide couldn't make calls — or were dropped in mid-conversation — because of a network connection failure that began about 9 a.m. Wednesday PST.
It marked the second time this year that the popular, low-cost calling service was hit with a major outage, and this one was more widespread than the two-day disruption in 2007.
"For a communications system this large to go down, it's almost unheard of," said Charles S. Golvin, a Forrester Research analyst. "Usually when phone lines are disrupted, the blackout is confined to a specific geographical area. This is worldwide."
Indeed. In the past, there have been network outages to auction site EBay and social networks Facebook and Twitter, but the impact wasn't as great, Golvin said.
"With those sort of disruptions, people have alternatives or they can wait it out," he said. "But with something like this — and you need to communicate with someone — it's far more significant."
Skype tried to reach its customers through its official blog and messages on the micro-blogging service Twitter.
"Some of you may have problems signing in to Skype — we're investigating, and we're sorry for the disruption to your conversations," Skype said on its Twitter account. "Our engineers and site operations team are working non-stop to get things back to normal — thanks for your continued patience."
In a blog post, Skype said it first noticed a problem when the number of people on the website dropped off. It "wasn't typical or expected, so we began to investigate," it said.
"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," the post said. "Unfortunately, today, many of them were taken offline."
The Luxembourg company said that engineers were working to get the system running and that it "may take a few hours."
But the outage in many areas lasted into the night.
Skype apologized, and said some features, such as group video calling, "may take longer to return to normal."