Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) was unavailable to shoppers briefly Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year in the United States.
The Seattle, Washington-based e-tailer downplayed the effects of the outage, saying that it lasted only about 30 minutes and that it was not caused by an overload of visitors. The company traced the problem to an internal computer glitch.
However, the glitch’s occurrence on the traditional kickoff of the holiday shopping season, the day after Thanksgiving, is unfortunate timing, according to analysts.
“To have the largest and most well-known Internet retailer go down will certainly make consumers more wary of shopping online,” Jupiter analyst Heather Dougherty said in published reports.
Amazon confirmed that the site was unable to take orders between 11:30 a.m. and noon, when visitors to the site found a message saying that all of Amazon’s main stores were “closed temporarily” and would be back in operation soon. “We’ll be right back!” the message said.
Visitors were given the option of leaving their e-mail addresses to receive notification when the site was back in operation.
Amazon spokesman Bill Curry said the outage stemmed from a “glitch” in the company’s computers and stressed that it was not related to a surge in online traffic. The company said it could not estimate the effect of the downtime on sales, saying only that it had sold more than 300,000 items during the first eight hours of the day.
Minor Troubles Elsewhere
As the critical last four weeks of the holiday shopping season began, other e-tailers reported technical glitches of their own Friday, including some blamed on an apparent surge in shopping traffic.
Amazon partner ToysRus.com, meanwhile said it was scrambling to restock some items that had been heavily bought in early shopping.
Some Slowdowns Seen
Last week, Internet researcher Keynote Systems released a report, based on how fast pages loaded and other factors, showing that some major e-tail sites had been performing slower as holiday traffic increased.
Despite the slowdowns and outages, e-tailers were predicting a strong weekend. For example, Yahoo! said that it saw twice as much shopping on its site than last year but experienced no problems.
Many analysts believe that a shopping season free of major problems, especially the last-minute shipping snafus that plagued the holiday season in 1999, is essential in order for e-commerce to sustain its growth rates.