Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?

MS, CNET On 7-Day Messenger Outage 249

imipak writes: "Microsoft have finally commented on the recent seven day outage at their Messenger IM service -- some users have permanently lost data, and there's still no explanation of the cause. Interesting earlier story from CNet News. Key quote: "... an outage that lasts seven days with no valid explanation really starts to make you think about .Net, and about Microsoft's plans for the Internet. What if this were the new Office software verification service that was down?"" Here 's a story on MSNBC as well.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

MS, CNET on 7-Day Messenger Outage

Comments Filter:
  • Lightweight? What besides sending chat-style messages do you need? And, Yahoo does store the list server-side. And, they have a Java client available through the browser, so you don't even have to install anything on your machine (useful if you're in the library or at a fascist company that doesn't let you install software on your desktop.

  • I can't fathom people using an IM service for anything but idle chat. People actually use this for anything they care about!?! Holy shit! Pardon my French, but that's absolutely mind-blowing.

    How long ago was it that someone would have said the same thing about e-mail? IM services save a lot of time for some businesses... and money too. Sure it would be great if everyone designed their own IM systems for work environments, but sometimes the point is having contact with your customers. Take the example of customer support. What does it cost to have a "call" center where people can answer questions over IM? virtually nothing in comparison to a full-blown phone system. It's nearly as effective too, at least for users who know what they're doing.

    Makes me wonder how much business-critical traffic passes through MS's (and AOL's) servers in the clear every day. Wow.

    We're not talking swiss bank account numbers here, were talking dumb stuff anyways. If you're dumb enough to send bank account numbers, credit card numbers, etc through IM or e-mail, you deserve a darwin award.
  • Oh, I was going to say...

    No I don't remember any of that.

    I also don't remember any of the ebay outages either.

    Or the slashdot outage couple weeks ago, etc.

    Ok, actually yes I rememeber. But it hasn't stopped me from continuing to use the web sites.

    Well except AOL, but I've never used that horror.
  • Yes, we have phones, but it takes a lot longer to say:
    "Hey, check out 31&cid=93, there's some info about MSN there"

    than it does to copy and paste it. :)
  • I use all four of them as well, and generally agree with your comments, here are my thoughts:

    Yahoo: Not bad, but I hardly know anyone who uses it, and it seems lightweight.

    MSN: My favorite, it stores buddy lists server-side, which is great for moving between machines. It has the least annoying sound effects, and a pretty simple interface, as well as the ability for people to send a message to my pager quite easily.

    ICQ: Used to be my favorite, but now there is too much clutter to the program. Your buddy list isn't stored on a server, so you've got to carry the data around between machines with you, which is a pain. It has annoying sound effects, but lots of powerful features.

    AIM: Not bad, slightly annoying sound effects, large number of users, and cool buddy icons.

    The other thing that makes me like MSN the most is that people generally tie it to their hotmail address, which they aren't likely to forget. Most of my ICQ friends have forgotten their # or password at some point, and have just made a new account, so some of them are on my list three or four times. People aren't too likely to forget their e-mail address or password if they even use it semi-regularly...
  • I use it, but I can't right now, as I still can't log in. So it seems MS is full of crap when claiming that there are just "delays" in logging in. It's not working from my Win2000 box using the MS client or my iBook running Fire on OS X...

    There are legitimate uses for this, it's quite handy for sending quick messages to my co-workers who are on the other side of the building from my office...
  • The only domain name I have which matters is, of course,, which I registered back in 1994. As far as I know, I have to deal with NSI for renewals.



  • This is nothing new :-(.

    is ancient (1997 I believe) but still speaks volumes about Microsoft corporate culture.


  • ironically enough, made in a satirical article I read:

    Microsoft NYET:,3,7,1,06 01,01.html But you probably want a slightly more serious take.

    Microsoft .NET is an way of tying together web services using XML. For example, let us suppose you want to make a plane reservation. Go to Microsoft(tm) Encarta(tm), make the reservation, and watch it pop up in your Microsoft(tm) Outlook(tm) calendar.

    Furthermore, by using your Microsoft(tm) Passport(tm), you can log on to web services using the same user ID and password, with everything stored securely [ahem] and reliably [cough] on Microsoft(tm)'s servers. It is even possible that some of these services might not be run by Microsoft(tm). For instance, Microsoft and Verisign/Network Solutions recently inked a pact in which NSI provided security for Passport. In exchange, MS will include NSI in their Passport service and (one must presume) pay them some money.

    The upshot of this is that if Microsoft(tm) Passport(tm) was to go down, much of the commercial Internet would do likewise. In addition, Microsoft will get a lot of information about the web sites you visit and the transactions you performed on those sites.

    Note how this ties in with the infamous Smart Tags(tm). Whenever smart tags appear in your browser, unless you explicitly change them, they will point to Microsoft(tm) sites. Much of what .NET(tm) is all about is driving traffic to Microsoft(tm) services.

    I will freely admit to grave doubts about .NET; all it takes is one serious outage and people will flee it in droves. Could you imagine if your site's online transaction abilities were down for a whole week? This is betting your tail on a function you do not control, and having to confront an angry boss saying "But you said this thing would work! Off with your head!"

    I've confronted an angry boss on matters far less serious than that, and I'm not anxious to do it again. I would think that sheer self-preservation will limit the success of .NET.


  • I think this is fitting of them.. 7 days and counting?

    Gee if this were .net how much would they loose in lawsuits for lack of business? 7 days of downtime * 1000 employees * 40 hours * salary per employee per hr.. oh * how many compnaies = lots of lost profits for the software mega giant..

    yeah! billy is broke!

    I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • Two words: backups.

  • You know, I bitch when something doesn't work right in a Debian package, too. Of course, I'm only too happy to submit bug reports and hop on #debian to see if I've screwed something up.

    If you offer a service, you should try to make it, you know, work. Granted, I have limited sympathy for people who expect a completely free ride, but that doesn't entirely let (insert free service provider du jour) entirely off the hook, especially if they're being tight-lipped about the outage.
  • SubtleNuance typed: At least it is not my families 7 years of financial data, or the copies of my child's baby-pictures - or my presentation that I needed for a job-interview.

    Or your credit card numbers, or your medical data, or your telephone number, or any number of things that will be stolen from .NET users the next time Russian hackers have unlimited access to Microsoft's networks for six weeks... How soon we forgot what happened back in October []. .NET is a disaster waiting to happen.

  • Hey, this was ONLY 7 days. The last month before I cancelled my AOL account a few years ago AOL was innaccessible.

  • It's great for things that are difficult to say out loud. Say you're on the phone with a co-worker, trying to diagnose a problem with a web site. You can send URLs to try, SQL code, diagnostic output, etc. back and forth without really interrupting the conversation. Plus if you've got NetMeeting you can share up your text editor / browser and be shure you're both looking at exactly the same thing.
  • Speaking from a Unix-only background, I think that storing the data at the server is a good idea, from the point of view of portability.

    99% of everything I do is stored in a central place - because I'm guaranteed that nomatter where I am, I have access to it. When I'm at home, I SSH into my work machine, and run a remote X session - I hence have access to all my email, bookmarks, works in progress, etc.

    I set this up at home, too (for my wife, who uses windows exclusively).. I install the Netscape profile on a shared drive on my home server.. much to the delight of my wife when her HD got toasted.. "Oh, you mean I can just use your computer, and I don't lose any of my email or address books? That's Amazing!"

    I do however, agree with you to a point - the problem is not the idea (storing the data in a central place), but the implementation - not keeping a backup; one stored on the local drive, as in your example, would be ideal..

    Not every software company has this implementation problem, though - IIRC, Diablo2 keeps a copy of your Realm character on your local HD, in case of corruption at the central server
  • Although not "essential", I use Messenger to video-conference with friends, and especially my family (I bought both my parents and sister a Quick Cam before they moved 2000 miles away so we could still see each other!). Although yes, the phone still works, it's unfair that I have to go a week without being able to see my family, as well as pay long distance charges...
  • Instead of "HailStorm", Microsoft should be forced to rename their service to "LightDrizzle", to avoid false metaphorical advertising about the degree of adverse conditions that the system will likely be able to withstand.
  • Look, would you use Hotmail to handle your business's mail? So why would you use MSN, Yahoo, etc. to deal with your business's IM needs? And yes, IM is becoming like email and the phone- another tool that people are relying on more and more to share information.

    So, if you care about IM for business use, why wouldn't you just pay for it? I only know of Sametime [] (which is good for inside your organization and connects via AIM externally). This is a tool for businesses and not for casual users.

    But someone should listen up here and make a business out of this for people who want a reliable IM service for casual use.

    I would think that there are people out there who would pay something for guaranteed reliability.
  • I ask this because if it is only the need for a browser that is keeping you on Windows (and I am not naive enough to think this is the only reason, I am sure there are others, but hear me out), then go ahead and switch now.

    Pick a good distro (I personally use SuSE - currently on 6.3, but moving to 7.2 soon - Mandrake seems cool - but I haven't tried it) - or, choose a BSD or something. Install it, then set up Netscape 4.72.

    This is anecdotal - but I have used 4.72 for a long while, and while it does have its faults - ie, it will crash, forcing you to do a "kill" to stop it - plus the annoying address book bug - it works pretty well. Mozilla is almost there - jump ship from Windows now, if you are that "tempted" - get familiar right now with everything. Once Mozilla is there (and I have to admit, it is so damn close - I am tempted to give it a shot as it is now), go for it.

    Whatever else is holding you back, there are alternatives and replacements. Good luck!

    Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!
  • From CNN []: ... The service, which allows users to send and receive short text messages in real time, was taken down by what the Microsoft spokesman called "a rare set of hardware failures." The software giant is looking at adding another backup system to ensure that a similar outage is not repeated, he said.

    I remember hearing something on TV that there was some corruption caused by the disk controllers, which corrupted their primary and backup drives. While that seems possible (and rare), it's more fun to assume it's due to poor OS development/stability ;)

  • carpet bombing can be fun! Else, we wouldn't have this disk to play with: []
  • Basically, if you cant us MSN messenger, you can us email, or pick up the phone. I'm sure, when MSN messenger breaks down, its not on MS top list of priorites.

    Actually, its a selling feature of Office XP collaberation potential.

  • Yet this entire mess (the IM failure) has occured on a completely distributed network as well. Micrsofts explanation citing "odd hardware failures" demonstrates that the distributed nature of their network is in fact, nothing more then an illusion. While hardware failures are a reality within this industry, to see a distributed network brought down to its knees illustrates the existance of a single point of failure.

    You take for granted precisely that which is the point of concern. Can Hailstorm and .NET be designed in such a way that even the most unexepected of hardware failures would allow users uninterupted service. This is the point raised by the IM fiasco and one hopes that users take note and proceed cautiously before adopting Hailstorm and .NET

  • It's called a licence agreement. Read their current ones and you'll see how far a lawsuit for damages would go.

    That's the whole what point is a license agreement just a joke? Maybe it's mildly valid for a copy of photoshop or something similar..
    But my bank's website doesn't make me agree that occasionally a bill payment won't go through. If you went to a real bank and had to sign a license agreement saying "just in case one of our bank tellers is drunk, we accept no responsibility for lost or misplaced payments" you'd laugh and find a new bank.
  • It really is quite simple. Anyone who puts their important data in one place, at the mercy of one system, with one login service is putting all their eggs in one basket. It provides a single point of failure that would be unacceptable to any corporate user. So why would private users fall for it?

    Use Passport and .Net if you like, but make sure you have a contingency plan. Just like if you are a one-car family, you better make sure you have an alternative method of getting to work if it dies one morn.

    With most utilities, if they fail, you can sue for damages. E.g., if my electricity provider has an outage that lets my freezer defrost and ruins my food, I can get damages to repalce the spoiled food. How will MS deal with users who end up paying extra interest because they couldn't complete bank payments on time because .Net or Passport are down?
  • There's always risk of data loss. But what I can't understand is why a billion dollar company didn't have anyone install some backup tapes for them? 7 days outage and loss of data? What, did the outage also go thru the backup tapes and delete them? How can this be possible? Does anyone have experience who can explain to me why backups can fail so badly?

  • As a (curious) sysadmin I wouldn't mind reading a post mortem like what the /. crew did a few weeks ago. I think MS is missing out on a lot of brownie points by not publishing a blow by blow summary of how an enterprise goes about troubleshooting/fixing a system like that. It would be possible to do something like that w/o disclosing sensitive information. Like I said, wishfull thinking.

    ... unless they are bullshitting *cough*Marketing*cough* the whole thing. Never underestimate Microsoft - you do so at your own peril.
  • >The average joe is usually atleast 2-3 years behind the curve technologicly, while businesses are much closer.

    Except when companies like Dell, Compaq, and HP force it upon new customers. How long after WinME came out did the big 3 start shipping it? The same day, I'd wager. People will use whatever comes on their computers, and it's the bottom line, sad as it is.
  • When I suggested Jabber for IM, there was immediate pressure from our Microsoft-centric mail server admins to instead just wait for Exchange 2000, which includes an intranet version of the Microsoft Messenger server.

    I've been considering deploying Jabber for our internal IM needs, but Jabber.Com is not really interested in small (under 50K seat) deployments, and the open source server has no support and does not scale.

    Any company that uses an external vendor to provide business-critical internal communications, be they e-mail, IM, or even in-house phone calls, is making a huge mistake.

    Using MSN-Messenger for business IM is no better than using Hotmail for business email.

  • mind you I'm sure everything will get worked out

    I'm surprised at all of you!

    Based on Microsoft's development model for previous products, such as Win and WinNT, you can reliably predict that "the application" will suck badly until finally it has acquired version 3. status.

    Sheesh, it isn't like this is rocket science!

  • That's right. Use the platform owned by the other behemoth and feel good about staying away from a monopoly power.
  • .Net is not an internet service (even if they are trying to hype it as such). It is a set of development tools coupled with a runtime environment, much like the Java Virtual Machine. The reason they are hyping it in combination with the internet is because it has some very cool features that will allow easier web-development/interaction/administration. It isn't something that can go down, anymore than gcc can go down. Just because it sounds like its an internet service, doesn't mean it is. When will you get it?
  • Actually I'm a big fan of Yahoo! messenger myself. Sometimes I'll use AIM, but its obviously aimed (no pun intended) at teenagers, and tends to be very simplified. ICQ has a bunch of cryptic things in it that I'll never ever use.
  • If the first statement is false, then the only thing I can think of is that the system was infected by either an outside source, or some other malicious virus.

    Oh dear... Do you think Microsoft was infected by the GPL?
  • I think the distinction to make here is "several years ago". Sure, AOL may have a had a horrible rep for busy signals and crappy service.

    But things have changed drastically now and expectations are higher. As services get more refined, more elaborate, and more reliable, the times when they are unavailable become all the more unacceptable.

    Horrible example (i.e. I'm tired): There were no doubt times 50 years ago when roads and bridges would get flooded out, preventing you from getting where you wanted to go (by car...even by foot or horse) until it was fixed or the river level went down or what have you. Now, everyone (in the U.S.) expects to be able to drive to any public place at any time of day and at worst have to deal with a traffic jam or a short detour. Not being able to reach reasonable destinations is unthinkable, and would make the local news, if not the national news (for a large enough "outage").

  • Well, unless I'm mistaken, GAIM (and probably Everybuddy) have had local backups of buddy lists for a while now. Of course, they have a different set of working assumptions: they need to be able to adapt to a service that they don't control.

    Of course, after this, maybe MS is realizing they don't exert 100% control over their own service. :^)

  • And I agree with the header - this really does make you question how much to trust their plans to make everything need to authenticate remotely.

    An outage of their IM service makes you wonder? 'Cmon ... they've hosed things way worse than this before.

  • If this is based on the same concepts of hailstorm, then potential customers may have some concerns...

    ...mind you I'm sure everything will get worked out - throw money at a problem, and they tend to get solved - I'm sure in the end it'll come out that it was script kiddies hacking the MSN messenger network... ;)

  • Well there's no way I'm gonna upgrade my users to WindowsXP after everything that is going around, and I bet I am not the only network administrator here that won't make the move.

    Let's start from top: It's a messaging program, Hell ICQ grew super dooper fast in a year, and I never seen it down more than an hour or two maximum since 4 years, Server crashes can happen to the very best of us, so anyone bitching at any company going down a few hours probably doesn't know what's involved.


    I look at a company in the server buisness, trying to take over the world, trying to squash it's competitors in every area, of course their database must be growing at a phenomenal rate, of course nothing is perfect and it can crash, but the point is, *1* Week?? how many of you people would get their balls chopped if you'd kill your mail server for more than a few hours?

    That's what I find unacceptable, I love windows 2000, more than any unix flavor, but what I hate is microsoft doing something good for once, and now that they have a good codebase and something that works, they add up piles of shit only a monopoly could do, and the more useless remote control they put, the more load they get, the more things like this are bound to happen.

    Now it's just a chat/messaging program, most of the MSN users run ICQ in parallel, but if one day its a Microsoft world and other more important things relies on such a system (.NET?) and the same thing happens, just imagine the consequences.

    Your word license has expired and you *NEED* to make that document but you can't reset your license by the net, great, more pain in the ass, phone them to get a code, since the server is down, their lines are probably full... etc etc...

    That's why I won't support windowsXP, it might be a nice product, but if people aren't sheep and realize what's happening, it'll send a message to microsoft (and they do listen, especially if the sales aren't strong and users are complaning (the 1st rather than the 2nd :) ) well they'll change their aiming.

    Too bad there's no solid simple and user friendly alternative because in a few months from now there will be a really nice opening and pissed off users (just wait with all that SID key and licensing activation junk).
  • It's great that MS "apologizes for the inconvenience" but I wonder at what point does it stop being an inconvenience and starts to be real damage.
    1. [slow pan of what looks like a mini-computer]
    2. Voice over, calm, almost Hal-like: The computer does not care. It sits quietly in the room, all alone, for days at a time.

      Now, it truely does work well with others. Microsoft.

  • Now that you mention it, an Act of God would be a justifiable excuse for losing data. If God wanted to destroy both production and backup servers as well as that tape you keep in a safe offsite I guess theres not much you can do about it.

    But thats about the only justifiable excuse I can think of for losing data! :)

  • by moronic1 ( 162493 )
    This is why not to put too much faith in one vendor
  • As a programming consultant, it turns out that the majority of my client base uses this. Not a big deal really with email, but it does make you think.

    This incident went completely unsupported. Not that any support would really make a difference since obviously it was a bad problem (maybe they're trying to save face?). At least we should know what is going on, tho.


  • The register had a story [] commenting on this when it first went down, noting that an un-named IT industry rag had speculated that the cause was the heavy implementation of the PassPort service.

    Shear speculation, but it has a ring of truth somehow.


    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

  • Now if only Slashdot would have a week-long outage, I could get some work done.

    Pffft. Doubtfully. Most people would probably spend most of their day hitting "Reload" to see if it's finally up yet.

  • And preserving data with 100% certainty is acheivable by anyone who takes the time to set things up right.

    I don't quite buy the 100%. But very, very close to 100% is achievable. Even if you set up everything perfectly and you do have regular dumps and you do keep them off site and you adhere to each and every best practice for a system- or database admin, things can go wrong beyond your control. For example, blown hardware, corrupting both mirrors of a disk, really dumb application bugs, corrupting the database logically over time, whatever.

    It's a matter of checks and balances and cost, of course. It is however very hard to achieve virtually guaranteed recoverability up to the last running transactions. For 20% of the cost however, you can achieve recoverability up to (say) a couple of hours worth of transactions. Depending on the type of data this might be quite perfect for your requirements.

    For example: /. [] has quite different data recoverability requirements then the SWIFT [] (the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) network. While a days loss of /. will disgruntle a couple hundred people, 20 minutes worth of lost SWIFT message can provoke an international financial crisis.

    I wouldn't think that Micro$oft is obliged to secure the server park and data of a free service as rigourous as the Federal Reserve has to secure its competers.

    You are completely correct however, that $$$ []s overall behavior, especially in context of other service failures, lost customer data, a weeks loss of service and an information policy, compared to which your average NSA spook is as talkative as a drinking buddy in a pub after half a bottle of Tequilla is utterly unacceptable.

    No sir, I wouldn't trust such amateurs with my personal data, let alone with confidential, or even company critical data; TYWM

  • Blockquoth Traicovn:

    Your always going to risk loss of data and loss of service if you let someone else handle your data, communications, authorization, etc.

    True, but you also take the risk if you handle your own data. Most people don't make backups, and far too many of those who do have never tested them. What good is it to make a backup if you can't use it to recover from a disaster?

    Microsoft's data loss in this case is inexcuseable, and reason enough why anybody considering a move to Microsoft-hosted services for anything of any importance should instead run screaming to the hills.

    But! Most people would still be taking less of a risk of data loss by trusting their data to Microsoft than taking care of it themselves.

    The answer is to control your own data only if you have the expertise and equipment to do so. If you don't, then hire somebody who does.

    Microsoft has, yet again, demonstrated that they don't.


  • I checked this out, and found out this:

    The entries in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MessengerServ ice\ListCache\MSN Messenger Service are mostly of the form Allownn , Contactnn , Reversenn and a few other entries (including a rather ominous MsgPrivacy entry (with a value of 00 00 00 00 on my machine :-))).

    The problem is, contact info for every messenger login made by that Windows username seems to be stored over here. While much of the data is obscured (or seems to be (haven't checked yet)), the email address of each contact is stored in the clear .

    Interesting thing to remember the next time you use MSN Messenger at a public computer, or on someone else's machine -- your contact list may just have become public knowledge.

    Is this a known issue, by any chance? Can anyone else comment on this? I've checked this out on MSN Messenger 3.6.0025.

    2*b || !(2*b) is a tautology

  • Yeah, a free service from Microsoft. Sure. Next you'll tell me that Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player are free, too. Never mind that pesky OS you have to pay through the nose for.
  • Wherever Mozilla is going, Konqueror is already there. If the browser is seriously the only thing holding you back, you can switch now, why wait?
  • From Microsoft's release:

    MSN Messenger service has been restored to all our worldwide customers. We sincerely regret the inconvenience you may have experienced. While the system has been fully restored, some users may experience delays for log-ins and authentications. We are working to resolve these issues now.

    And later in the _same_ release:

    Finally, while the system has been fully restored some users may experience delays for log-ins and authentications. We are working to resolve these issues.

    Are they just being redundant from carelessness, or are there still so many people having problems that they want them to think that they are one of a few?

    And a little more forboding, this is from the MSN article (kinda sounds like even they are criticizing MS):

    Still, the MSN Messenger outage leaves questions unanswered. Many people reported a string of secondary problems, such as the inability to access Hotmail accounts, lost MSN Calendar data, or the inability to download software from Microsoft's Microsoft Developer Network Web site. All share one common thread: Passport authentication.

    Other stories about Passport on /. []

  • I see one minor one doing a quick search on The only one I saw was from April, which involved power outages that caused users to experience problems over a two day period reaching buddy lists, etc... Here are two links with blurbs about it: oblems/index.html [] []

  • The transports that allow you to use AIM/MSN/ICQ defeat the purpose of using Jabber. Those services still have to be accessed the usual way, so if MSN goes down then it goes down for everybody. Transports are useful though, as they allow you to talk to people who haven't switched to Jabber yet.

    ICQ's features and "user float" are client-specific. The trouble with Jabber clients is that most of them are not that developed. There is no reason they couldn't have these features in the future. I'm a big fan of the ICQ interface though, so I actually started developing a client myself, called Psi. I hope one day it can replace Licq.

    Get it at
  • Any business that heavily relies on IM should take a look at Jabber. Just look at the benefits:

    In the Jabber world, a mass outage would never occur unless there was a problem with the Internet. With Jabber, if your server goes down then that doesn't affect the rest of us (just like if your mailserver went down).

    Businesses should especially like this, because they can run their own company server, leaving them with nothing to worry about but their own network. And of course, unlike deploying a local ICQ server, and local Jabber server can talk with the rest of the world since Jabber is _supposed_ to operate decentralized like that.

    No need to worry about a corrupt central corporation sniffing your conversations. No need to worry about a server going down that's not under your control. No proprietary protocols either, as Jabber's protocol is fully opened (see Want to add new features? No problem. With its clean XML design, adding new tags is a breeze and won't break existing clients.

    Also handy is you have control of the contact lists at the server. If someone gets hired into the business, the Jabber admin guy can just add the new person to everybody's list with some script. No need for all the employees to have to go through the add/authorization process with fellow workers.

    Jabber is clearly the future of IM, for both business and home users (I envision a world where each ISP runs a Jabber server alongside the usual Mail servers). I just hope it gets widely adopted. People tend to use whatever MS hands them, and I dread that WinXP / MSN may have the majority of the world doing their IM through Microsoft and their central server. This is so clearly backwards when compared to any other core Internet system (WWW,Email,News).

    Everyone should get involved with Jabber. Head over to and grab yourself a client. Advocate. Pitch in. Cross your fingers.

  • It would make sense to store a backup copy of your contact list locally, but keeping the master list on the server side is the best way to go for applications like this, because people sign into Messenger from so many different locations (home, work, on the road, etc) and in order for them to access their buddy list it needs to be server side.

    Up until a year or maybe two ago, AOL Instant Messenger stored buddy lists completely on the client side, and needless to say this was very annoying when setting up on a new machine. Sure you could export/import buddy lists from one to the other, but if you forgot to do that you're pretty much out of luck.

    I do agree, though, that a quick backup in the registry, or better yet a data file in the Messenger folder, would be a nice feature in case of situations like this.
  • Conversely, here in Kansas City, AT&T's dial-up service had a month or two period with a horrible connection record. Speed, busy signals, etc. They promised to upgrade the system, but people quit before they could. Now, it is probably the fastest ISP in the area (always full connection speed, 200ms latency consistently, 6kb/s downstream often). Odds are that this has quite a bit to do with everyone quiting before they upgraded the network. Luckily we were too lazy to get our ISP changed, so now we reap the benefits of an underused system.
  • Anne Tomlinson went to work for Microsoft?
  • For some definition of "fully restored."

    Must be time to check again on what the definition of "is" is.


  • Well you could always transfer to a different registrar. There are several around willing to renew your domain for a low low price. [] will do it for around $8.95
    Just don't wait till the last minute to do this. No later than 3 or 4 months before your reg is up, initiate a transfer. I would also be sure you don't need to do any modifications on your account after the transfer has been initiated.
  • Now perhaps people will see that micrsoft isn't the best, bigest and greatest that is out there and will use something else. Or maybe even look into using other applications for their operating system and business application needs. There will be a revolution from the dictatorship that is microsoft and alternative software will come into the foreground and everyone will rejoice and the cheaper price and more functunality that is offered.
    however most people will just keep using what they use now becase everyone thinks that change is bad.
  • I'm just dipping into the first coffee of the day when I notice this submission was actually posted... *fouteen hours ago*. And to think, I was actually in front of my computer for 6 of those hours, reading the damn bugtraq backlog. Damn, slashdot needs a pager alert option... "Your submission accepted! Perpare for the anonymous trollfest!"

    I suppose there's always next time. Now to wade thru' the (currently) 319 comments...
    "I'm not downloaded, I'm just loaded and down"

  • They do store your contacts in the registry. Look in:

    HKEY_USERS\(SID)\Software\Microsoft\Messenger Servi ce\ListCache\MSN Messenger Service

    All your contacts are there. Can Messenger restore from that list? Who knows. I am wondering how bad the client code got screwed up when they were doing the daily releases to keep it connecting with AOL a few years ago.

  • Most Common Support Questions
    1-How can I get connected to the messaging service?
    2-How can I uninstall the product?


  • I think the reason this is so big is simply due to the fundamental difference between appearence and reality. Maybe in reality (and maybe not) this really was just a hardware problem which will never occur again. But the appearence of the situation is that M$ can't handle something as simple as keeping a messenger service working, so they'll never be able to keep something like .net working.

    I would also like to add that the service issue raised because of this is an important one: we all know that services will fail at one point or another, but a responsible company needs to alert its users.
  • The story is on ZDNet, not CNet (even though I think CNet owns ZDNet nowadays).

    And that "story on MSNBC" is a ZDNet story that was republished by MSNBC--not a story written by MSNBC.
  • Maybe Microsoft should hire Frank Parker [] to fix it.

    (Or is that too obscure?)

  • you're right, software can be no more stable than the hardware on which it's running.

    the big difference imho is that slashdot does not advocate and stand to benefit from it's own brand of centralized web services. it's been said much more eloquently by other posters, but if passport or windows product activation went on the fritz, the results could be significant.

    this might be a sign that microsoft is not ready to offer web services a la .NET
  • Yes, it was Rousseau's Social Contract, and the paraphrase is wrong. Its everyone gives up individual rights, and in return gains every one of those rights back from the community, but as community rights. In a nutshell I = You = We and hurting you hurts me, because we're all members of the community. It also has to do with the General Will, which is the notion that we all agree on the same society/community and so we all have the same will for the society community. Very GNU like, actually. But of course no one will see this post cuase its nested deep and a reply to a reply :)
  • (if someone actually has an important, legit reason for using a messenger service, please correct me...).

    Im a web programmer, 9 of my friends are web programmers. We used to work at the same company, but now we are working for 10 different companies. We all use ICQ, and we ask each other questions concerning problems we are having with code, or we toss ideas back and forth reguarding the projects we are working on.

    do we goof off on it? yup, but it is also an essential tool for all of us


  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:31AM (#93780)
    Anne Tomlinson

    we still don't know the real story

  • by sachmet ( 10423 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @01:58PM (#93781)
    The bottom line here is this wouldn't be news if it wasn't Microsoft. Hardware fails (think back to the /. failure a short while ago) and sometimes it takes a while to get it going again.
    Not quite; if AIM or ICQ failed for a week, it would be news, too. The tie-in to .NET is auxilliary to the real point: that a company which is claiming to have a large, scalable architecture had a problem which affects a large number of Internet users (over 10m) and couldn't fix it in a week's time.

    Sometimes, news is news.
  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:28PM (#93782)
    > From what I've read, they had a disk controller failure, and the secondary (ie. backup) controller also had some kind of fault which lead them "further down the disaster recovery plan." Which means now they go to tape backups, probably.

    Sounds like they're just making excuses. No matter how they spin it, there's no excuse for a disk controller to put them out of service for a week. Lose data since the last backup, sure, but not a week long shutdown.

    Recall also that Hotmail suffered 10+ days outage for a subset of their users last summer, and some of those users permanently lost their data and had to just start new accounts.

    I agree with Pinball Wizard: there's no excuse for this kind of thing. (Frankly, I think it's because Microsoft still doesn't 'get' anything beyond a single-user system.)

    FWIW, they've been saying the same thing over at c.o.l.a. for a few days, and even one of the tenured trolls is agreeing that it's inexcusable.

    And how are they going to sell .net with this kind of high-profile outage on everyone's minds? If you're the CIO of a big company and you move your company to .net, do you just send all your employees home for a week when something like this happens?

  • by EasyTarget ( 43516 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:57AM (#93783) Journal
    The CNet article seems to have someone from Microsoft hinting it was a hardware failure..

    What Happened? did all three CTRL-ALT and DEL keys fall off at the same time?

    Enquiring minds want to know, cos if you talk to Cisco, HP, et al.. they'll sell you something called a 'Maintenance Contract'.

  • by iceT ( 68610 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:27AM (#93784)
    Not 7 days. And, they published an entire blow-by-blow timeline of what happened.

    So, who's more responsible?
  • by AsbestosRush ( 111196 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @02:28PM (#93785) Homepage Journal
    "This outage is not indicative of Microsoft's ability to move forward with its .Net strategy," Visse said. "This was one isolated issue brought on by a series of extremely rare hardware failures."

    I find this highly improbable. Any ISP worth it's service has either service contracts on it's hardware, or a closet of "critical spares" (hardware that the ISP couldn't function without, and therefore keeps a second piece or the parts to repair equipment), usually both.
    A company the size of MS, this should be a foregone conclusion that both of these things should already have been covered. I know that the Messenger Service isn't quite as mission-critical as say a primary filesever, nor is the messenger service as important as many other ISP services (web, mail, authentication, etc), but come on! Hardware failure isn't an excuse for a mutiple *workday* outage. Not for a company the size of MS.
  • by malfunct ( 120790 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:55AM (#93786) Homepage
    The bottom line here is this wouldn't be news if it wasn't Microsoft. Hardware fails (think back to the /. failure a short while ago) and sometimes it takes a while to get it going again.

    I think the notes to be examined here are the lack of PR and customer support on the issue and the extended length of time of the outage. You can bet that the issue is being examined very closely by MS and will not happen the same in the future. I guess what I'm saying is that yelling and pointing doesn't fix anything and that the same could happen to you so learn from the down side of the whole thing.

    Availability is a very hard problem to solve for any service. I think MSN did well to keep as many people connected as they did (I for instance did not lose service).

    Unfortunately this, like the ./ outage, was a hardware issue and things that should have worked (and probably worked hundreds of times when tested) did not work.

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:25AM (#93787) Homepage
    And, of course, it too lasted 7 days, without so much as a report on it, and wiped out user data....

    Seriously, there's no comparison.

    And I agree with the header - this really does make you question how much to trust their plans to make everything need to authenticate remotely.

    -= rei =-
  • by thelexx ( 237096 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @01:05PM (#93788)
    "This incident went completely unsupported."

    Apparently it bears pointing out once again that this is a key issue for companies doing business with the internet community. Someone at MS hasn't read the Cluetrain Manifesto [] yet! Some particular points from it:

    11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.

    12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.

    25. Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.

    28. Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what's really going on inside the company.

    30. Brand loyalty is the corporate version of going steady, but the breakup is inevitable and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.

    There are many more they would do well to take into account as well, particularly down around #82...

  • I guess we would all be more trusting if it were Verisign and not MS

    Hardly - its not that I don't TRUST the authentication of Passport. Its the fear of a company like Microsoft storing all this personal data of mine to access other sites, pay for stuff, etc.

  • What brilliant software designer thought that it was a good idea for MSN Messenger NOT to store the buddy lists locally?

    So you could access it from another computer which you were validated on. Of course - it seems to me that using a local CACHE of the data would be a brilliant idea - if you change your list offline - local changes and sevrer gets updated, etc. If hte server was down, you could still send stuff to folks peer to peer if you had a local copy stored - course with ICQ you'd be stuff offline if the servers died...

  • by pjgunst ( 452345 ) <pjgunst AT skynet DOT be> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @03:56PM (#93791)
    Through HailStorm, Microsoft hopes to deliver e-commerce services, address books online, and password management to disparate devices such as PCs, handhelds or cell phones.
    "No, your PC won't be useable 'till next week. We're sorry about that. No, you can't use your cell phone either. We have a minor I/O problem."
    >It's such a nice, comforting feeling knowing everything is taken care of, and in good hands. The future's bright. Where do you want to go today?>
    OK, it could happen to any negligent sysadmin (uhm, count me in). I don't have any problem with the way Microsoft runs its business (OK, maybe I do, on moral grounds). What I do have a problem with, is any kind of centralized information center. Data cannot be stored safely on one location, one system, prone to failure. I'm sure even a complete idiot would NOT have overseen this. And please, let's not even think about the consequences of one company keeping records of 98% of the desktop users. Fortunately, we do have a choice. Would be a shame to waste, considering the alternative.
    I admit, my opninion is biased. So is yours.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:20AM (#93792)
    No need to fear, by the time .NET is up all of Microsoft's servers will be running FreeBSD..
  • by citizenc ( 60589 ) <cary@glidedesign . c a> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @01:31PM (#93793) Journal
    (if someone actually has an important, legit reason for using a messenger service, please correct me...).
    Grr. Igornace ;-) I work for GameSpy Industries []. (Specifically, I run 3DActionPlanet [].) Now, the offices are in Irvine, California. (By contrast, I live in Winnipeg, MB, Canada.) Now, one of the benefits of running a website for a living is that it can be done remotely. I have anybody who I would need to talk to about work on my ICQ list -- if I need to ask a question about policy, I ICQ the big boss and get a response fast. Looking for somebody to write a preview of a game? I just look on my '3DAP Writers' group and see who's online.

    So, there ARE legitimate, work-related uses for instant messanger software. =)

  • by jvmatthe ( 116058 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:07PM (#93794) Homepage
    I'm a bit shocked that the MSN IM service doesn't somehow have a way to store and retrieve user data on the client end for exactly this kind of situation. Heck, just do the usual thing and pile it all into the registry...that seems to be where everything else important ends up. If such a feature existed (caveat: and worked) in the MSN IM client then all those users that lost data would simply have the service send a message to the client on next connection to use the last backup and POOF! no lost buddy lists.

    I realize I'm just a lowly mathematician and all, but doesn't this seem reasonable, even for people that design real-life applications?

  • lasts seven days with no valid explanation really starts to make you think about .Net

    At least it is not my families 7 years of financial data, or the copies of my child's baby-pictures - or my presentation that I needed for a job-interview. We dont have to tell MS that distributed resources increases fault tolerance. When you devise a massive system, with a single point of failure (M$.Net) you are going to burn - and burn big-time. If .NET services were distributed to many 'equal' computers (think the internet as it is structured today) than we can withstand the loss of one machine, in the M$ vision of the future many-many-many services and machines rely on their .NET systems. Imagine if TCP/IP had to 'ping''s 'license' server in order to start - now imagine they go down....

    This may not be a surprise to any one on /.; but what happens when Passport crashes for a week and no one is able to pay bills or maybe Office.NET file storage site burns down and takes millions of people's family photos (yes I know about off-site backups).

    The point is simple - you cannot build a reliable system with such a glaring single-point-of-failure. Downtime happens - and as this MSMessenger event shows us - .NET has serious potential for peril. I hope all the PHBs and DoJ are paying attention...

  • by AlphaOne ( 209575 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @02:56PM (#93796)
    I think the real cause was something like...

    MsgrSvr.exe caused an invalid page fault in module KERNEL32.DLL at 015f:bff9dba7.
  • by baptiste ( 256004 ) <> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:59AM (#93797) Homepage Journal
    Most people would probably spend most of their day hitting "Reload" to see if it's finally up yet.

    This crowd? Nah - we all wrote scripts that sent us email alerts to our cellphones when slashdot came back up and we could finally find 'CowboyNeal' somewhere in the HTML source :)

  • by Marcus Brody ( 320463 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:47AM (#93798) Homepage
    Lets face it, is MSN messenger really an essential service? Do you pay your bills with it? Inform friends & family of a bereavement? Tell your boss you will be late for work?

    No, it is virtually allways used for leisure: Pretending to do work whilst actually swapping sweet-little-nothings with Jane in accounts, or arranging a Q3 duel with DukeQuakem. (if someone actually has an important, legit reason for using a messenger service, please correct me...).

    Basically, if you cant us MSN messenger, you can us email, or pick up the phone. I'm sure, when MSN messenger breaks down, its not on MS top list of priorites.

    Perhaps, er, they had better things to do? Or perhaps it got lost at the bottom of someones in-draw?

    However, it probably wasn't a good idea for MS to leave it so long. So many bloody people use it, that it does send out a helluvalot of bad publicity (I'm not going to get that date with Jane this weekend and it is ALL Micro$ofts fault!! Bah!). However, I think if a important component of .NET where to fail, and adversely affect many critical services, MS might react a little quicker, with greater resources & assurance

  • why, then, did VeriSign basically turn over its entire authentication process to Microsoft and start deploying Windows 2000 servers in its core business?

    See this report [] from The Register for the grisly details.

    I suppose you could say this is because VeriSign and Network Solutions are insane, deranged companies, and there is most likely truth to this. But I'm not convinced; I HAVE TO deal with these idiots for my domain names, and now I have to rely on .NET to do it. Ick.


  • by powerlord ( 28156 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:22PM (#93800) Journal
    Ya know there are two possible causes from the minute information they've released (It was caused by a freak failure when a hard disk controler crashed).

    1) Caused by a freak failure when a hard disk controler crashed.
    2) They've said they have to restore from backups.

    If both are true, then it sounds like they were using a distributed database (or filesystem?) and one machine going down very badly managed to infect lots of others... doesn't bode well, especially when MS's solution to competing in the Server environment is traditionally to Cluster lots of machines together. The more you have the more chance one may have problems.

    If the first statement is false, then the only thing I can think of is that the system was infected by either an outside source, or some other malicious virus. Standard Operating Procedure in this case would be to disconnect the machines, diagnose the problem (so new machines wouldn't be infected), and then restore from backup. Its also possible someone over-reacted and they went into this mode when in actuallity Item 1 was true.

    Anybody else think we're hearing the whole story?

  • by Dr.Evil ( 47264 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:59AM (#93801) Homepage

    when these kind of outages happen, of Peter Deutsch's 8 Fallacies of Distributed Computing:

    1. The network is reliable
    2. Latency is zero
    3. Bandwidth is infinite
    4. The network is secure
    5. Topology doesn't change
    6. There is one administrator
    7. Transport cost is zero
    8. The network is homogeneous

    This is, of course, why the idea of remote authentication being necessary to use your word processor is a bad thing. Heck, even losing something as innocuous as an instant messaging program brought thousands of people to a screeching halt for a week. It seems to me that Microsoft (although they're certainly not the only ones) seem to believe these 8 fallacies blindly, espcially 1, 4, and (they're hoping) 6.

  • by Pinball Wizard ( 161942 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:40AM (#93802) Homepage Journal
    ...permanently lost data

    I am utterly amazed at times the things I hear about how system administration is performed at MS. Ever check their jobs page? They're really picky about who they hire, you know.

    Yet we repeatedly hear about security problems with their own servers, how all their DNS servers were on the same network segment, hotmail goes down and now this? Lost data??!!!

    I'm sorry, but as a former full-time sysadmin, there is absolutely no excuse for losing data. Preserving your companies data is the #1 priority of any sysadmin, regardless of the company. And preserving data with 100% certainty is acheivable by anyone who takes the time to set things up right.

    Oh well, I was never a fan of their passport/hailstorm idea anyway. Things like this can only cause more people to run away from using those services.

  • by TOTKChief ( 210168 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @12:54PM (#93803) Homepage
    Not only has Microsoft been struggling to restore full service, but on Thursday the company also shut down MSN Messenger as it restarted the network of servers that handle messaging traffic. That "reboot" failed to immediately fix the problem. [Emphasis added.]

    Bet they know how I feel at work every day now...

  • by Traicovn ( 226034 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:31AM (#93804) Homepage
    Think about Hobbes social contract.
    'People give up certain rights and freedoms for a feeling of safety etc.'

    This is the same sort of situation kinda. People give up having their own servers for communications and data storage in technologies like .NET. It is the companies responsibility to give us fair service, and tell us what's going on.

    If we do not like what's going on, it is our right and responsibility to seek alternatives.

    Your always going to risk loss of data and loss of service if you let someone else handle your data, communications, authorization, etc. It's a risk that you take. You hope that the company is able to do a good job and maintain good service. Remember, if you start using .NET and using all of the authorization features to access Microsoft's sites that require Passport/Messenger, just like in Hobbes social contract you are giving up some rights and some control. Your taking a risk. But remember, their are other choices.

    [Something witty and intelligent should have appeared here.]
  • by Fatal0E ( 230910 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:41AM (#93805)
    As a (curious) sysadmin I wouldn't mind reading a post mortem like what the /. crew did a few weeks ago. I think MS is missing out on a lot of brownie points by not publishing a blow by blow summary of how an enterprise goes about troubleshooting/fixing a system like that. It would be possible to do something like that w/o disclosing sensitive information. Like I said, wishfull thinking.
  • by ryanvm ( 247662 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:42AM (#93806)
    In related news:
    Recent surveys show that employees that use Microsoft's popular Instant Messenger software are having one of the most productive weeks in recent years.

    Now if only Slashdot would have a week-long outage, I could get some work done.

  • by fiber_halo ( 307531 ) <fiber_halo@[ ] ['yah' in gap]> on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:34AM (#93807)
    We sent out an instant message to all the users letting them know about the outage.
  • by UberOogie ( 464002 ) on Tuesday July 10, 2001 @11:24AM (#93808)
    Remember when AOL had huge outages several years ago?

    Remember when users couldn't get through because there were busy signals all the time?

    Remember how people said that there was going to be a mass exodus from AOL?

    Remember how that didn't happen?

    No matter how badly MS screws this incident up, no matter how many judgements get made against them, the average business drone and Joe User will still end up using .NET.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -- Thomas Alva Edison