The site went down around 4 p.m. PT yesterday while experiencing record traffic, according to a company spokeswoman. The site posted this message: "Please check back soon. Due to the high number of visitors currently using our site, we're unable to start your session at this time."
According to the spokeswoman, Beyond.com decided to "fine-tune the Web site" before the holiday shopping season, which typically brings more traffic. She was unable to elaborate on the nature of the problem, however.
The company said the renovations involved changes to the database, as well as to the order processing system so it can handle more orders per minute.
Beyond.com, however, declined to comment on when its more robust system-- which should be capable of handling the expected holiday shopping volume--will be implemented.
The setback is Beyond.com's first major outage. Since launching the site in 1994 as Software.net, the Sunnyvale, California, company has completed over 1 million downloads, the spokeswoman said.
Amazon.com, eBay, and other e-commerce sites have experienced similar intermittent outages as the volume of visitors flooding their sites steadily increases.
Since Beyond.com changed its name about a year ago, the company has banked on a national advertising campaign to transform the new brand into a household moniker, a tough sell in a crowded market, analysts say. While spending millions on advertising, the company has faced widening losses to $21.9 million last quarter compared with $5.1 million a year ago.
The site has been built up to offer more than 48,000 software titles with 6,600 available for immediate electronic download. Yet in the highly competitive realm of consumer software sales--dotted by companies including Buy.com, the recently merged Egghead and Onsale, Cyberion Outpost, Amazon.com, and even PC makers such as Dell--the Internet has become a particularly tough arena.
Beyond.com yesterday saw its long-term "buy" recommendation reiterated by analyst Daniel Ries at CE Unterberg Towbin.
The company said all orders placed prior to the outage are intact. Beyond.com declined to say if there are any plans at this time to offer any discounts to frazzled customers.
CNET, the publisher of News.com, holds an equity stake in Beyond.com.
News.com's Greg Sandoval and Bloomberg contributed to this report.