PayPal Users Still Stranded By Site Glitch

A routine monthly code update performed last week for the PayPal.com online payment Web site continues to cause havoc for users, many of whom have only intermittently been able to access the site since the changes were made, according to the company. In an update posted Tuesday on EBay.com, which owns PayPal Inc., PayPal said the problems seem to have been caused by the new code base, which was meant to update the site Friday.

"The code worked well when tested and during the first hours of launch," the statement said. "Unfortunately, problems handling peak levels of traffic developed later in the day that created intermittent availability and errors for members. These problems have continued in varying degrees."

How Many Affected?

Sara Bettencourt, a spokesperson for San Jose-based PayPal, said that although the company doesn't know how many users have been affected by the service disruption, it doesn't believe all of its customers experienced problems.

PayPal.com has about 50 million user accounts, including about 15.5 million active ones, she said.

"From what we've heard, some people have been able to access their accounts," Bettencourt said. "We don't have any ways to assess the numbers." Some users are experiencing slow access, while others are unable to reach the site, she added.

PayPal and EBay technical support personnel have been working around the clock since Friday to try to resolve the problems, but there is no time frame for when repairs will be made, Bettencourt said.

The company is not disclosing the type of coding error responsible for the glitch, nor would Bettencourt comment on which software language the code uses.

Asked why the site hasn't chosen to roll back the update to when the software was working properly, Bettencourt said that doing so would be a complex process and that technicians are instead focusing on repairing the problem.

An Apology

In its statement, PayPal said that "account data and personal information have not been compromised by these issues."

The company apologized to buyers and sellers who were unable to complete their payment transactions over the weekend.

"We understand the PayPal site issues may be impacting many of you and your ability to do business with PayPal on and off EBay, and we apologize for this situation," the statement said.

A Virginia-based EBay seller, who asked that his name not be used, said he wasn't sure whether the PayPal.com glitches reduced his sales over the weekend. But the upgrade problems reminded him of frustrating glitches he experienced with past EBay.com site changes that were touted as improvements.

"EBay would change formats on the site and had the same problem" with users running into difficulty logging in and making purchases, he said. "Development people always want to bring out new versions when the existing version is fine."

The problem with EBay.com's updates, he opined, is that they weren't tested sufficiently before being deployed. "That's what it really comes down to; they don't have it debugged," he said. "There have been some features [on the EBay site] in the last six months that I've been pleased to see, but I don't think they have the methods in place to do it seamlessly."

The seller, who has logged more than 5000 sales on EBay in the past six years and has conducted more than 2500 PayPal transactions in the past three years, said he had never before had problems logging into or using his PayPal account.

Michael Dortch, an analyst with Robert Frances Group in Stamford, Connecticut, says in an e-mail that the PayPal glitch will certainly raise questions for users.

"For EBay power buyers and sellers and others who rely upon it, any outage is disturbing; and one of several days would perhaps already have been fatal to a company without the support of an EBay," Dortch says.

"PayPal has got to get this resolved, and reassure its constituents that it's unlikely to happen again, to avoid opening itself up to intensified competition and user reluctance," he said.

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