Skype: How dare Microsoft not warn us about updates.

SkypeAm I the only one to find this claim a little bit of a puzzler? PC Pro writes,

Skype blames Windows Update for 48-hour outage
Skype is pointing the finger at Windows Update for a critical system crash that wiped out the VoIP service for two days.

In a statement posted on the company’s support page, the company claims: “The disruption was initiated by a massive restart of our user’s computers across the globe within a very short timeframe as they re-booted after receiving a routine software update.” This is presumably the Windows updates that were sent out on Patch Tuesday last week, which required the PC to be restarted.

Of course on the Skype blog they don’t actually refer to the term “Windows Update”, they refer to a “routine software update” which many websites have subsequently replaced with “Windows Update”. Given Windows Update does fit the criteria for a mass “routine software update” in relations to the timing of the Skype outage, but does it really make sense?

Skype’s blog has been updated to say,

On Thursday, 16th August 2007, the Skype peer-to-peer network became unstable and suffered a critical disruption. The disruption was triggered by a massive restart of our users’ computers across the globe within a very short timeframe as they re-booted after receiving a routine set of patches through Windows Update.

The high number of restarts affected Skype’s network resources. This caused a flood of log-in requests, which, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, prompted a chain reaction that had a critical impact.

Windows UpdateThink about it. If Windows Update did in fact cause the restart of millions of Skype users worldwide, which it can do without argument, then how come Skype doesn’t crash the second Tuesday of every month when of course Microsoft distributes its Windows patches like they have for the past 3 years and years of unscheduled patches prior to that? As far as I recall, last week wasn’t any different.

Am I missing something? I’m not saying it was not Windows Update, but why only last week did it do what it could have done 36 times already?

Update: The Skype blog has now been updated to directly refer to “Windows Update” as the culprit.

Update 2: Skype clarifies their statement in an update about “Windows Updates”. Other factors not present at any other previous Windows Updates attributed to the “perfect storm” on August 16. Probably should have just said that the first time around. 🙂

32 insightful thoughts

  1. I think what skype is saying, rather poorly, is they had a login glitch that was magnified by the fact that millions of people were rebooting because of recent updates.

    Normally an event like this wouldn’t be so pronouced as I know I only reboot when required by a software install which I sure don’t do that often.

  2. Of course if you believe Skype you would have to accept that every computer rebooted at the same time around the world which of course isn’t what happened. Windows update defaults to 3AM local time so computers would have rebooted (if they were set to auto-update) at differing times around the world.

    You would ahve thought that all of the great minds at Skype, Paypal and eBay could have come up with better BS then this.

  3. The problem here is a bug in Skype’s software/server. It’s not fair to blame Windows Update because reboots arn’t really something special.

  4. *chuckle* .. I too think there’s a certain amount of spin in Skype’s story. I like they way they also downplay the bug by saying it stopped the network from “self-healing” quicly enough. Would be nice to learn what the real story was ..

  5. Actually, I have my computers set not to take updates automatically. But both my vista machines were *rebooted anyway* wednesday morning. So MicroSoft did something Extra Evil that tuesday.

    And yes, I *use* my computer and REALLY do not appreciate them being re-booted by some redmond pimply faced morons. To me, that’s a way bigger issue than the Skype thing.


  6. When I read this on Neowin, I was thinking the exact same thing Long was thinking.

    If a “massive restart” was the cause of the problem, it should have happened long ago. Not to mention, we’re all in different time zones. So, the restarts couldn’t have been all that “massive”.

    Definitely calling BS on this one, also.

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  8. Does skype actually think people will believe a lame excuse about a global simultaneous reboot of windows? Please.

    Perhaps it had less to do with the MS update itself than whatever security patch was included in it. Which brings up a whole other issue.

  9. Um, the Skype blog now states Windows Update by name.

    “…a massive restart of our users’ computers across the globe within a very short timeframe as they re-booted after receiving a routine set of patches through Windows Update.”

  10. There were a couple of special patches on Patch Tuesday, released to fix up a number of issues, but it is pretty pathetic to blame Microsoft. They did actually announce those patches ahead of time and they were available to download the week before.

    Perhaps Skype need to review their “self-healing” P2P technology.

  11. What a joke. Why doesn’t Skype take responsibility for their own mistake? It is just sooooo much easier to accuse some else.

  12. It’s kinda ridiculous… you must be able to support this kind of events! We aren’t talking about a “new” messenger, skype is a “big” one… Really weird.

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  14. Yeah, I agree with the above but I’ve had problems with my Norton 360 ever since the updates too. Anyone else using it and having problems? It’s not like a Microsoft patch hasn’t been the root of problems before.

  15. Sure there’s Windows Updates every Tuesday, but it doesn’t force a reboot every Tuesday.

    That said, you’d think that even if it acted like one big Denial of Service attack that Skype would shut down their links and then gracefully bring people back onto their network, rather than collapse for 48 hours.

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  17. Well, take a read of the two following comments by a poster (Julian Cain) on GigaOM:

    It’s interesting though, that the more we rely on these services, the more frustrated we get when they don’t meet our expectations.

    Depending on the user, some will opt for web searches to find solutions, whilst others will just give up.

    Just imagine if the whole network behind MSN Messenger went down worldwide.

  18. Where is Skype “blaming” Window’s Update? Didn’t they say the problem was on the Skype side concerning lots of logins? If they said, “Skype was down because there was a ton of logins that the software didn’t handle well.” I’d wonder why all the logins. The answer is lots of computers rebooting from a Windows Update patch. That’s not blame in my book.

  19. @RC: I agree with you that they didn’t blame Windows Update, but they state Windows Update as the cause, which makes me wonder if that’s the case or just a coincidence.

  20. Maybe you guys can read this from MSRC

    To give some more detail, we were contacted by Skype about this last week and have worked to help them. First, we checked to see if there were any issues introduced by the security updates that could have caused the situation, and we found that there were no issues introduced by the security updates themselves.

    Next, we checked with our Microsoft/Windows Update teams to see if there was anything unusual in this month’s update in terms of reboots, size of the updates or speed of distributing the updates through Automatic Update. We confirmed that there is nothing unusual in this month’s release that could have contributed to this situation. From a release point of view, this month’s release followed our usual format and processes.

    Fortunately, Skype has identified the cause. As Villu Arak notes, “a previously unseen software bug within the network resource allocation algorithm” was the cause, and they have corrected it.

  21. yes, I know … it is very easy to be a general after the battle…


    I would like to ask technical experts the following question:
    Why they (Skype people) don’t run their network on UNIX/LINUX machines ?

    Based on my 15 years of experience managing a UNIX/LUNUX network, I can say that
    there is no need to re-boot UNIX/LINUX server after applying any kind of patches.
    You simply re-start certain service (including network service).
    This feature is built-in every UNIX/LINUX version.

    There is ONLY one case when the UNIX/LINUX server needs to be re-booted.
    This is the case when the KERNEL is replaced with the newer-one or in the case of hardware failure.
    ALL other changes (patches) to the server can be done 100% transparent for users.

    Ask yourself why GOOGLE, Wall Street, international financial institutes etc etc run their business on UNIX/LINUX?

  22. There is an underlying fault in the design of Windows, which renders it obsolete by definition. It is trying to please the Open and the Close communities at the same time, Consumer and Producer, Server and Client etc.
    Why doesn’t Apple have the same problem?
    Windows must cease being “all things to all people”.
    Unbundle Sir Bill!, unbundle.

  23. I hate this. . we’re being forced to upgrade to this crap and somehow magically none of our voices are being heard and those who are are prolly gettin told to just deal with it, well I WILL NOT. fuck you skype, fuck you microsoft! I will go to other programs and hopefully find one as good as msn. . i heard they’re even killing alternatives what about ppl who use those alternatives on their phones!? like ebuddy!? well i guess they’ll have to make an AIM or Yahoo name. . -sighs- i’mma miss my icons, my customization, and my speech+ plugins. I will however not miss my friends. but i will not be bullied into downloading garbage.

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