Craigslist, Authentium Flap Ends

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The inability to access the Craigslist.org classifieds sites vexed users of Cox Interactive and caused some to blame software provider Authentium for the problem.

ZDNet’s George Ou discovered that a fix at the Craigslist end has been put in place, and he blogged about the quiet repair:

The Craigslist website was behaving in an unusual way where it would tell the whole world it was too busy all the time. Craig Newmark’s (founder of Craigslist) position was that the responsibility for the glitch fell solely on the shoulders of Cox Communications and Authentium and that it was up to them to fix the problem.

Had Craigslist fixed their servers to behave according to best practice like everyone else on the web, the problem could have been universally fixed for all users with or without updated software from Authentium.

This had been the contention of John Sharp, Authentium’s CEO, who commented about the issue between his company and Craigslist in a Q&A with WebProNews:

What exactly was the nature of the problematic packets that ran afoul of the firewall product?

The network packets coming from the Craigslist.org web site were unusual in that they contained a zero-length TCP window that usually indicates a server is too busy to handle more data. The Authentium firewall driver responded by sending data only one byte at a time. This slowed down the web request and made the Craigslist.org web page load very slowly or not at all.

Ou recently did a little network packet checking and found the servers on the Craigslist side had been fixed. He verified that with colleagues, and noted in his post that “Craigslist never acknowledged any issues on their end yet they fixed it silently after all the smoke had cleared.”

Some sort of acknowledgment of the fix would be welcome from Craigslist, as Cox and Authentium had been portrayed as apparent villains in the first report about the issue. The specter of net neutrality threats had been invoked, inappropriately as it seems.

UPDATE!: Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster has indeed responded about the whole unfortunate issue. He was generous enough with his time to discuss this at length, and based on our email chat I’ve decided to retract a line of this column that had caused concern on his end.

Also, John Sharp, Authentium CEO, has followed up with me as well. He concurs with Buckmaster that the root cause for the whole accessibility issue rested with Authentium and not Craigslist. I suggested otherwise, and apologize to my readers and Craigslist for having done so.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Craigslist, Authentium Flap Ends
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