Internet telephony service Skype has been out of service for many users since yesterday afternoon, we reported yesterday. As of 8am this morning, the service was still down and we were unable to log into our Skype account.

Software problems are leaving millions of users - primarily in Europe, South America and some parts of Asia - without access to their Skype voice, chat and voicemail services. For now, Skype has also disabled new downloads for the program.

On its forum this morning, Skype said: "Even though it is too early to call out anything definite yet we are now seeing signs of improvement in our sign-on performance". It added that it will continue to monitor the situation throughout the morning and for the rest of the day.

Millions affected

It is not clear how many users are affected by the problem. Skype has some 220 million accounts, with between five and six million users online at any given time.

Apparently the problem is a software issue - it has not been caused by a server crash or hackers. Late last night Skype said that the problem was caused by "a deficiency in an algorithm within Skype networking software. This controls the interaction between the user's own Skype client and the rest of the Skype network."

"Our engineering team has determined that it is a software issue," Skype said Thursday on its forum. "We expect this to be resolved within 12 to 24 hours."

Normal service is expected to resume at some point today - we'll keep you updated. In the meantime, Skype is recommending that users keep the application running so that they will be automatically logged on when the problem is resolved.