The leading auction site stated on its announcements board that its picture server, which delivers graphics, photographs, and other images to eBay users, initially went down just before noon PT today. After bringing the picture server back online about an hour later, the server went down again at about 3:30 PT.
In the early evening, the server still appeared to be down.
Meanwhile, a number of users reported having more significant problems. Posting on the AuctionWatch message boards, one user in Maine wrote at about 3:50 PT that he couldn't access eBay's home page, echoing the comments of other posters.
The day's trauma is more bad news. eBay suffered three different unplanned outages on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of this week. On each occasion, the company said it had rebooted its own systems after noticing slow response times. Each time, eBay took more than an hour to get its systems back up and running again.
The series followed a June fiasco, a 22-hour outage that stretched over two days.
eBay vice president of operations Michael Wilson attributed today's downtime to an unusual server load. The picture server was receiving some 10,000 requests per second, he said. Normally the server receives only about 1,200 requests per second.
Wilson said the problem was not an internal system problem, but instead was coming from outside eBay. "For some reason, we're seeing enormous amounts of traffic," Wilson said. "I don't think it is a natural act."
But the Maine user wrote: "I wish eBay would knock it off with all their bells, whistles, and utterly useless features and concentrate on site stability."
eBay representatives insisted that the problems stemmed from its graphic server and that the site was not experiencing a system-wide outage. The inability to download images is not the same as an outage, the said, suggesting users reload their browsers if they have difficulty accessing the site.
"It may look like the site is down to them," Wilson said. "But as far as we know, the only thing that's down is the picture server."
The company yesterday posted a message on its announcements board saying that outages earlier in the week were caused in part by network routing problems at one of the Internet service providers that connects to eBay. A company spokeswoman said that was not the case with today's troubles.