Cost Of eBay’s 22-Hour Outage Put At $2 Million

Online auction wonder eBay Inc. may be ousted from its pedestal after a 22-hour outage that has left the company bending over backwards to compensate frustrated customers.

eBay currently estimates that the outage, including the auction extensions and refunds, will reduce its second-quarter revenues by between $3 million to $5 million.

The system crash, which lasted from late Thursday to Friday, followed a brief service disruption Wednesday night. On Sunday, My eBay — the company’s personalized service — was disabled “due to instability with that function,” according to engineers.

eBay has promised to extend by 48 hours all auctions posted from Thursday and refund all fees for all auctions between June 9 and June 11.

The long disruption prevented any bidding and the listing of new items on the site. The outage was traced to a corrupted system disk in the Sun Microsystems software, which was identified and rebuilt, with service finally restored at 8:25 p.m. Eastern Friday.

eBay repeatedly assured customers that no data was lost. The company also reverted back to an earlier version of its interface, although officials insisted recent design changes had no connection to the outages.

“We will continue to devote the best technical and service resources of Sun Microsystems to ensure the level of service the eBay community demands,” said Ed Zander, Sun’s president and chief operating officer.

eBay implemented new policy for any outage of two hours or more, promising to automatically extend by 24 hours all auctions that would have ended during the outage or one hour thereafter. Additionally, eBay will now automatically refund all fees for interrupted auctions.

“Although we know that extending auctions and refunding money will never
be enough, we feel that this new policy illustrates our commitment to our
community,” said Meg Whitman, eBay’s president and chief executive officer.

eBay reiterated its goal of uninterrupted service, and announced that engineers are “working diligently” on a backup system that would automatically limit the length of potential outages to less than an hour. Ironically, this project has been in the works for several months.

The company also plans to hold a free listing event some time in July, another compensation for this weekend’s turn of events.

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