The whole world can talk for free…except for the last few days. Skype, the eBay-owned Internet phone service, was unexpectedly taken down last week by a software bug, leaving loads of users unable to log on, including myself. I’ve been using Skype since the beginning of the year, and have had almost no trouble with the service. Whether I’m calling landlines, mobile phones in China, or other Skype users, the quality is typically great. Sure, I’ve had a couple of echoes here and there, but most of the time I’ll just ask the person if I can hang up and call again, and when I do, it’s perfect. 220 million people worldwide use Skype, and there are usually 5 to 9 million online at a given time, but I haven’t seen numbers on how many people lost access last week.

Skype has now explained the problem. On Thursday, a huge number of its users’ computers re-booted at the same time after receiving a set of routine software patches through Windows Update. This basically crippled Skype’s network resources, creating “a chain reaction that had a critical impact.” The company insists the outage didn’t stem from anything malicious, but I’m sure there were more than a few telecom bigwigs who were happy with the news.—Gregory Mone