Walmart.com Seeks To Unclarify Outage

On Black Friday (Nov. 28), Walmart.com crashed for about an hour, in a move that Walmart.com described as "scheduled maintanence." Walmart.com is now trying to clarify that position. Well, actually not.

Walmart.com is saying that they want to clarify that position, but then E-mailed a statement that, well, doesn't clarify much of anything. But it does do a nice job of hinting at something without actually saying it.

Let's take this slowly. As was reported on Black Friday itself, Walmart.com was down for about an hour on Monday morning, ending at about 6:15 AM New York time. Keynote reported that the one change they could see—when comparing Walmart.com's state before and after the "scheduled maintanence"—was that much of their content that Walmart.com had been hosting on their own servers was now sitting on servers at Akamai.

Late Thursday, Ravi Jariwala, public relations director at Walmart.com, sent an E-mail to at least one reporter that Walmart.com "wanted to provide some clarification." Always good to hear.

His next two lines, though, didn't provide any clarification: "We've worked with Akamai for the past several years and the issue on 11/28 was unrelated to them. In fact, we quickly resolved the matter, and the issue did not impact any customer orders."

First, to our knowledge, no one ever question that they had been working with Akamai (although an Akamai spokesman on Friday morning wouldn't confirm it, oddly enough). Not sure what "the issue on 11/28 was unrelated to them" clarifies. Keynote merely reported that the server names changed before and after the incident. All of the comments surrounding it suggested that the Akamai move might have been a response to something, as opposed to the cause. But without specifying what "the issue" was, analysis is impossible.

The E-mail doesn't deny that the server names changed so it's not clear what it's supposed to be communicating.

The next line says that "we quickly resolved" this unspecified matter, which also isn't a clarification. Is that intended to suggest that it was resolved in much less than the hour we had reported? More? Not clear what to take away from that sentence.

The phrase said that "the issue did not impact any customer orders." We're at a disadvantage as we don't know what "issue" is being referenced, but if it's the site's downtime, it seems a odd comment to make. Potential customers who went to the site at that time and couldn't make any purchases—or see any information—were certainly impacted, as were the orders they might have made. If he had said it didn't impact revenue, that would be one issue. Did he mean that it didn't impact any orders that were in progress? Well, if the site was shut down, that would certainly prevent orders from being half-completed, I suppose.

But when we replied asking for the opportunity to discuss this on the phone to clarify the clarification, the reply came back: " Thanks for your message. At this point, we've provided the clarification and shared all the information we're able to."

We debated what to do with this, as it doesn't provide any true data, but we thought sharing the statement with all readers was the best route to take.

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