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Skyfire's iPhone browser 'sells out' due to shaky bandwidth

Have you ever heard of an iPhone app selling out of stock? Neither had we, until one browser company used it as a cover up for a service failure.

Skyfire for iPhone
Skyfire for iPhone
Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Skyfire for iPhone ($2.99) may be one of the shortest-lived apps in the iPhone App Store, surviving only five hours today before Skyfire pulled it from the marketplace after noticing strain on their servers that resulted in poor user experience.

"The servers haven't crashed," a Skyfire spokesperson said, but they did stutter as customers who bought the browser streamed Flash video. The Webkit-based Skyfire app (also available for Android) delivers Flash video to users--ordinarily forbidden by Apple--by streaming it through their own servers first in a process known as proxy browsing.

Skyfire issued a press release earlier tonight declaring that the app has "sold out," and that the company will issue "a new batch" of downloads once Skyfire increases its server capacity. In reality, video streaming demand was too much for the Bay Area-based Skyfire's servers, delivering a sub-par video experience to users. Skyfire didn't provide CNET with its first-day download numbers, which Apple should make available tomorrow. In the meantime, Skyfire is "working around the clock to get the servers back up," CNET was told.

This is hardly the first time Skyfire has attempted to dodge slings against its ability to scale the proxy service. Browser-competitor Opera has been calling Skyfire's bandwidth into question since the early days when Skyfire was a green startup for Windows Mobile phones, just enlisted in the browser wars--and Skyfire has predictably averred its readiness since then. We had hoped that years of seasoning had taught the company to prepare their back end for this demand.

Still, it's a sad day when a company survives Apple's app-approval gauntlet just to fall--even if only temporarily--at its own hand.