Thursday, August 16, 2007

Skype Suffers Major Service Outage -- Users Welcome At SightSpeed, A Better & More Reliable Alternative

Uber-blogger Andy Abramson just posted today about a major service interruption outage at Skype -- apparently associated with its P2P system (which is dependent upon so-called "super nodes"). The Wall Street Journal and others have picked up on this story, which is said to be impacting "many of its millions of users" -- leaving many of them "without service world-wide."

Why and how did this happen? SightSpeed's CTO/Founder, Aron Rosenberg, offers the following analysis:

Why is Skype Down?

All the super-nodes seem to have disappeared. Doing a live packet analysis of a Skype login it seems that most if not all of the super-nodes that make up the Skype network aren’t responding? This means that users are authenticating with the Skype master server, but not able to attach to the peer-to-peer network. Why would this suddenly fail today?

Two reasons come to mind:

Skype got hacked

I don’t think this is likely since it is very difficult to traverse the entire Skype super node tree by a public or end-user. In order to cause such a massive failure the intrusion must have either come from the top or a full scale breaking of the Skype protocol and its encryption loop.

A code release went bad.

There have been rumblings that Skype has the ability to update the software/code on their super-nodes or clients without any user intervention. If one of those updates happened last night and it went wrong, then poof, all of your super disappear. Now you have a cascade effect where more users are being piled on to the few remaining nodes. This type of failure is very similar to the cascade failure of the New York / East Coast Power Grid a few years ago. The problem with a bad code release is that you now no longer have any super-nodes which can support the peer-to-peer cloud especially since Skype doesn’t actually control the super-nodes themselves.

SightSpeed, of course, provides all the same services ... yet significantly more than Skype. SightSpeed users also get the added benefits of world best video quality and, further and importantly, SightSpeed's wholly different P2P system. Unlike Skype, SightSpeed is not dependent upon super nodes. Rather, SightSpeed uniquely establishes a direct P2P connection between both parties to a call; and, SightSpeed also is fully SIP-based. All this makes for a much more secure and reliable connection, among other things. If you are interested in learning more about this critical distinction (which is not widely understood), please reach out to me directly and I will connect you with our CTO, Aron Rosenberg. To contact me, please post a comment to this post (with your contact info) or, those of you who know me, reach out directly.

-- PC World ("reliable audio and low audio-video latency")

-- ZDNet ("the SightSpeed folks have figured out a way to traverse more NAT devices, including ones that employ symmetric NAT")

-- PC Magazine ("hands down the best free Internet video calls offered by any Web service")

-- PC World (a "100 Best Product of 2007", ranking in the top quarter of all products -- and far ahead of Skype)

-- PC Magazine ("Editors' Choice" -- 3 times -- including for its most recent release -- "brilliantly clear video calls")

-- Walt Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal ("Try SightSpeed, a very nice video-conferencing service")

-- Paul Taylor, The Financial Times ("the next level of video conferencing" ... "watch out Skype")

-- Frost & Sullivan, 2007 "IP Communications Services Company of the Year"

And You Thought The iPhone Frenzy Was Bad? Here Comes "High School Musical 2"

Who can forget the hype and media madness just two months ago when Apple finally unveiled its long-awaited iPhone?

Well, for the tween set, that's nothing compared to the anticipation and hype surrounding Disney's long-awaited release of "High School Musical 2" tomorrow on the Disney Channel.

The first "High School Musical" took the country (and my kids) by storm about 1.5 years ago. Its success came out of nowhere, yet Disney did an amazing job capitalizing on the tween frenzy surrounding the film (as examples, my kids have "High School Musical" DVDs, CDs, posters, and countless tween magazines devoted to the cast). Now, Disney is ready to be proactive -- and sell your kids, and mine, all the things "High School Musical" that they could ever want (and not even know they want).

Parents are more than happy to oblige and act as marketeers themselves, adding to the hype machine. I should know -- one of the mom's in our neighborhood is organizing a "High School Musical 2" slumber party tomorrow night (and you can be that those little tweens will be talking about the show -- and buying up a storm -- for months to come ... until "High School Musical 3" makes its predestined debut).

Struggling EMI Turns To Madison Avenue for Answers

At the end of the day, music labels are essentially marketing firms -- their goal is to build awareness and market select artists to consumers.

But, in an unprecedented move and sign of these times -- with global sales of music continuing to decline in disturbing numbers -- EMI (the fourth major label) has turned to outside marketing experts for new ideas and solutions. EMI has just announced that it has hired the LA office of global advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi to "come up with new ways to sell some of EMI's older titles." According to Ronn Werre, president of EMI Music Marketing, "Our view is to have somebody come in with a fresh perspective."

Interesting move. But, rather than hire an outside and expensive traditional advertising agency with rather limited direct experience in digital media marketing, wouldn't it make more sense to hire folks within who have had years of direct and successful experience inside the digital music and media world?