A routine monthly code update performed on Friday (8 October) for the PayPal.com online payment website has caused havoc for users, many of whom have managed to access the site only intermittently since the changes were made, according to the company.
In an update posted on eBay.com, which owns PayPal, PayPal said the problems were apparently caused by the new code base, which was meant to update the site.
"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."
Sara Bettencourt, a spokeswoman for PayPal, said the company did not know how many users had been affected by the service disruption but that it did not believe all its customers were experiencing problems.
"From what we have heard, some people have been able to access their accounts," she said. "We do not have any way 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 type of coding error is not being disclosed, nor would Bettencourt comment on which software language the code uses.
PayPal.com has about 50 million user accounts, including about 15.5 million that are active, she said.
Asked why the site has not chosen to roll back the update to when the software was working properly, Bettencourt said it would be a complex process and that the technicians are instead focused on repairing the problem.
In its statement, PayPal said, "Account data and personal information have not been compromised by these issues."
The company apologised 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 apologise for this situation," the statement said.
A eBay seller, who asked that his name not be used, said he was not sure whether the PayPal.com glitches reduced his sales over the weekend. But he noted that the upgrade problems are reminiscent of frustrating glitches he has experienced with eBay.com site changes that were touted as "improvements".
"eBay would change formats on the site and had the same problem" with users having 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 said, is that they do not appear to have been tested enough before being deployed.
"That is what it really comes down to; they do not have it debugged," he said. "There have been some features [on the eBay site] in the past six months that I have been pleased to see, but I do not think they have the methods in place to do it seamlessly."
Todd Weiss writes for Computerworld