In The Aftermath Of The Global Skype Outage…

A couple of days ago, Skype suffered a global outage which made it to a couple of tech news websites and thus caught the attention of the nerd community for about a millisecond or so. Once service was restored, however, it wasn't even newsworthy to report. Global outage and nobody cares?

I use Skype quite regularly so I also noticed that the service was down and in the process trying to get it working again I managed that the Skype app threw away my super long super secure Skype password and I had to spend at least 5 minutes to get it back up working again. Couldn't have happened with a SIM card approach I thought.

But how come nobody really complained about an almost day-long global outage? That doesn't necessarily speak for Skype's popularity. I think the reaction would have been quite different if Facebook or WhatsApp would have been globally down for the same amount of time. That doesn't bode well for Skype's owner Microsoft…

The other thought I had was that in the 'good old days' the worst that could have happened and actually did happen very seldom were local outages of the communication system when a local exchange or the long distance link to it went down for some reason. But that was pretty much it, everything was distributed and even a failure of a long haul transport exchange wouldn't have brought down the network in a whole country, let alone cause a global outage. But these days are long gone, today systems are built for global service and despite of redundancy and fail-safe mechanisms occasionally fail massively on a global level.

Something is wrong with that approach, the Internet was build with survivability in mind, not for centralized services, control or management that cause global outages. But while a couple of decades ago, a whole building was necessary to house a local exchange, a couple of rows of server racks are now sufficient for central control of a nation's telephony system. Sure, that's a lot cheaper than owning, maintaining and powering buildings and equipment in each town to keep the telephone system running but in terms of reliability it is a nightmare. It's time to find a middle ground!

3 thoughts on “In The Aftermath Of The Global Skype Outage…”

  1. the difference of today and decades ago is:
    if skype doesnt work, you use one of the other trillion messenger systems or just the mobilephone or or or…

    decades ago we had a plane old telefon and thats it. today we have 1-4 mobile phones (on different networks), phone at home, internet at home, different messengers etc.


  2. Great post. POTS may be plain, but it works! Correct me if I’m wrong, but POTS was setup in the distant past by nations eager to get modern communications working in their countries and was essentially a standardised process (I consider the mobile technologies to be essentially an evolution of POTS, POTS+). Since then POTS+ has largely been privatised, but I’m wondering whether that initial nation-led exercise was the key ingredient to make it so uniform and reliable. Nowadays it seems anyone can set up an internet based communication system (Wolfgang’s trillions) and they make it up as they go along. So popularity, not standardisation, breeds ubiquity, but that doesn’t guarantee reliability as we found out last week. There’s a gap that needs to be filled. I’m not an expert on such things, but maybe we all get assigned an IPV6 number (or set of) and data finds us via an extended DNS system, and we use an agnostic system to interpret that data. DNS seems to be generally reliable.

  3. I think the problem is that corporations are attempting to enclose (privatize) resources in order to collect rents (profits). The internet was originally designed to be a common resource, and corporate attempts to privatize that have kicked off the open source software movement, as well as other open initiatives. We are missing the Soviet Union ;-).

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