America Online goes Offline

That was the title of a story on the Macneil/Lehrer News Hour in August--the day of AOL's previous outage. "For 19 hours, the world's largest online service shut down... The biggest blackout in cyberspace history."

Calling it "a bump on the information superhighway" that left millions of subscribers "lost in space", the news program interviewed Dennis Neal, Technology Editor at the Wall Street.

Some fair-use excerpts.

What exactly happened yesterday?
That's the hard part. In the simplest's a software bug. Engineers were working at 4 in the morning on a middle-sized computer... The company's saying its a combination of computer error and human error...They were looking for the problem to the right when the problem was coming from the left.

Was there anything really serious that happened as a result of this?
It's a major pain and an inconvenience. The company has said "We're sorry, and we'll credit you for one day of usage. Now that amounts to 30 to 60 cents. When a waitress brings you the wrong entrees she sonetimes brings you dessert. That's not going to leave a whole lot of subscribers feeling very good about it.

This is a black eye for America Online when the service needs to lure millions of more newscomers who aren't comfortable with computers. I'm sure AOL is doing everything they can to stop glitches from happening again...

The president keeps saying one good thing is we keep seeing how important AOL is.... Although crisis management consultants say that's not exactly a good argument to be making at a time like this.

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