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Netflix went down for an hour for some users

But the company won’t say whether it thinks it’s because of a pandemic-fueled rise in streaming.

Ben Affleck in Netflix’s “Triple Frontier.”
Ben Affleck in Netflix’s Triple Frontier.
Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Netflix, which has nearly 170 million customers around the world, says some of those customers couldn’t use its service today “for about an hour.”

Netflix says the outage, which started around noon Eastern time and affected users in the US and Europe, has been resolved. A person familiar with the company said the outage only affected users trying to get to the service via web browsers — and not on mobile apps or connected TVs, where Netflix sees most of its usage.

But Netflix wouldn’t comment on whether the outage was a result of surging use during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s the company’s statement: “Some of our members in the US and Europe were unable to use Netflix via our website for around an hour this morning. The issue is now fixed and we’re sorry for the inconvenience.”

Netflix’s ability to stream video to a lot of people, who are likely streaming a lot more video than they did a few weeks ago, is going to be tested over the coming weeks and months. The same goes for every other company on the internet, given that hundreds of millions of people around the world have been told to stay home, and that many of them are relying on streaming video services and social media platforms to pass the time.

Earlier this week, Netflix said it was reducing traffic for its customers in Spain and Italy by 25 percent and that it was rolling out similar plans across Europe. A Netflix source says the company is now doing the same thing in India, Australia, and Latin America — but not the US.

In a company blog post, Netflix executive Ken Florance said the streaming service was reducing the picture quality of its streams, which means that “if you are particularly tuned into video quality you may notice a very slight decrease in quality within each resolution. But you will still get the video quality you paid for.”

Netflix has some 60 million US customers, and in the past, it has been identified as the source of a third of America’s broadband traffic during primetime viewing hours.

Meanwhile, Alphabet’s YouTube, the world’s largest video service, has also said it was working to reduce its bandwidth usage by automatically serving users streams in standard definition instead of high-def. But users can switch over to higher-quality streams if they want.

YouTube initially rolled out the changes in Europe last week, and this week said they were doing it worldwide.

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