This week’s edition of Business Week turns the Skype outage into an article on whether we’re content with “good enough” technology.
As I was open with the issues I faced thanks to Skype going down for 30+ hours, I ended up chatting with Stephen Baker about the challenges faced by not having access to the service.
Andy Beal was one of 220 million subscribers to Skype, the cut-rate Internet telephony service owned by eBay (EBAY ), who saw the service go dark on Aug. 16. A software glitch kept it down for the next two days. Founder of the Raleigh (N.C.) Internet marketing consultancy Marketing Pilgrim, Beal learned that Skype was out an hour before clients were to call him from Holland. He had to message them in a hurry, telling them to call his tenuous backup: the cell phone. “It was embarrassing,” he says. But at least the cell phone worked–which isn’t always the case.
I also shared with them the somewhat scary notion that pretty much all of my data is reliant upon some online service being available.
Here at Marketing Pilgrim, we’ve already asked if “OK” is good enough. Here’s what Business Week has to say…
Are communications getting worse? Not by a long shot. We’re surrounded by miraculous machines and services, most of them calibrated to a level software engineers have long called “good enough.” In the right circumstances, good enough is great for the entire economy. A marketplace that’s not hung up on fail-safe standards is open to risk and innovation, and drives down prices. Ever since the dawn of the PC–the archetype for a good-enough machine–inventors have been freer than ever to piece together and launch their visions. Some are brilliant, some are half-baked, many are a blend of the two. A precious few are up and running 99.999% of the time–Bell’s old standard. But they cost far less to build.
Even Google doesn’t promise 100% uptime, but I’m happy to accept this in return for an almost 100% uptime guarantee. That said, I think companies do need to do a better job of communicating downtime and compensating for extreme cases–something Skype did end up doing.