Is the Skype Crash Windows' Fault or Skype's?

Who's to blame for the massive Skype crash of 2010 that knocked 10 million users off the grid right before the holiday season? Microsoft's Windows? Or Skype itself?

Skype's CIO Lars Rabbe explained the outage yesterday on the company's blog, saying that servers handling offline messaging became overloaded and slow to respond. Instead of taking the "mature" route, Windows client 5.0.0152 -- which represents about 50 percent of all Skypers -- threw a hissy and crashed. That crash caused about 40 percent of those clients to fail. And among the clients that failed were between a quarter and 30 percent of systems that provided important directory services in Skype's peer-to-peer network.

Skype struggled to resuscitate those supernodes, but as their attentions were diverted, other supernodes blew their gaskets and caused even more shut downs.

This problem could have been easily avoided. Two words: automatic updates.

"Users running either the latest Skype for Windows (version 5.0.0.156), older versions of Skype for Windows (4.0 versions), Skype for Mac, Skype for iPhone, Skype on your TV, and Skype Connect or Skype Manager for enterprises were not affected by this initial problem," Rabbe wrote on Skype's blog.

But because Windows client 5.0.0152 still existed, it caused the massive meltdown. If Skype had been more aggressive with its automatic update policy -- such as making Skype unusable for those without the latest client download -- chances are the crash never would've happened. That means you could've chatted with grandma after all ... which is a good or a bad thing.

Skype is now reviewing its "processes for providing automatic updates for our users so that we can help keep everyone on the latest Skype software." Skype has also pledged to improve software quality with a review of testing processes.

It'd be easy to blame Microsoft and its history of building buggy software, but haven't we come to the point where some degree of glitch is expected from Windows? Skype should've made its users download a more secure version and allowed us to chat with our grandmothers.

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