Coding Error Shuts Down PayPal

PayPal's online payment Web site slowly returned to normal operations last week after an unspecified coding error virtually shut down the site for four days.

The problems began on October 8, when a failed routine monthly code update wreaked havoc for many eBay users who couldn't make or collect payments. The PayPal.com Web site is owned by eBay.

Sara Bettencourt, a spokeswoman for San Jose-based PayPal, said the company doesn't know how many users were affected. After PayPal and eBay engineers worked around the clock for days early last week fixing the problem, Bettencourt said, the system was allowing "most users to transact without incident." She wouldn't disclose the type of coding error.

PayPal.com has about 50 million user accounts, 15.5 million of which are active, Bettencourt said. Account data and personal information weren't compromised, according to PayPal.

A Virginia-based eBay seller, who asked that his name not be used, said he wasn't sure whether the glitches with PayPal.com reduced his sales over the weekend of the failure. But he noted that the upgrade problems are reminiscent of frustrating incidents he has experienced with eBay 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.

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