Weibo, the wildly popular Chinese social media service that boasts more than 300 million users, was struck by a rare outage for up to an hour on Monday morning.
Starting at around noon, millions of users found they couldn’t update the website after they signed in, or were unable to access its various mobile apps. The apparent outage lasted more than an hour, with service restored for most users soon after 1pm. In Hong Kong, the outage seemed to have started earlier, with users reporting very slow or no connections beginning at 9 or 10am.
Sina, the owner of Weibo and one of China’s largest internet portal firms, apologised at around 1pm via its official Weibo customer service account, but remained silent about the causes of the outage.
“The problem of Weibo’s homepage not updating has been fixed. We apologise deeply for the inconvenience,” it said. No disruption was reported for its main portal site, www.sina.com.cn, throughout the day.
State-run China National Radio quoted Tang Wei, an internet security expert, as saying that the disruption was likely caused by an internal “accident”. If this were the work of hackers, the Weibo.com website would probably be completely inaccessible for at least a few hours, Tang said.
Short as the outage was, dedicated Weibo users found a lot to complain and joke about during the precious minutes they went without the service.
“My adrenaline went through the roof in that one hour,” wrote one user.
“My first response was, damn, they killed my account!” wrote Gong Ling, a freelance journalist based in Beijing.
The popular service has come under tight government censorship in recent years, as Chinese citizens increasingly vent their daily frustrations, criticise the government or swap political gossip online. Sensitive discussions are quickly deleted, and outspoken users often get banned or their accounts purged.
“Employees at all companies and government offices reported dramatically improved productivity during that hour,” quipped another user.
Some jokingly speculated that the outage might have been caused by Weibo employees downloading internet pornography, jamming the company’s bandwidth.
Journalists, in particular, found the hour hard to bear. “Oh thank the almighty internet gods, Weibo is back otherwise China journalism as we know it would end,” wrote Jeremy Goldkorn, a Beijing-based internet entrepreneur and commentator who runs the popular Danwei.org blog.