The biggest Web outages of 2010
Develop | Posted December 27, 2010

As of May 2010, 78 percent of American Internet users use the Internet on an average day. We use it to read, shop, communicate, network, research, work, and play. And so, when a website goes down, our routines are undoubtedly shaken.

Here's a recap of some of the biggest outages and performance events to shake the Web in 2010.


In September, Facebook proved that even the most popular and fastest websites aren't immune to performance issues and outages. On Wednesday, Sept. 22, problems with a third-party networking provider dropped the site's availability to only 76.19 percent and removed the beloved "like" button from hundreds of other sites. The next day was even worse. On Thursday afternoon, availability fell to 38.46 percent, and response times soared as high as 60 seconds.


Earlier this month, the rapidly growing microblogging site went offline for nearly 24 hours, the result of what Tumblr called planned maintenance. A result of the site's meteoric growth, perhaps? In October, Tumblr served up 1.2 billion page views in the U.S. That's 1,540 percent more than the same time last year. In the same 12-month period, Tumblr triple its number of unique U.S. visitors, from over 2+ million to over 6 million.


Despite months of anticipation and preparation, every year we see the website of at least one online retailer falter under the influence of shoppers flocking online to capitalize on Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. This year it was JCPenney that sustained the most troubled performance. For most of the day on Black Friday, beginning at 8:30 a.m. EST on Cyber Monday, and continuing until almost the end of the week, we consistently saw response times reach 90 seconds, causing our monitors to time out before they had a chance to complete a simulated transaction. The company attributed the slowdowns to higher-than-expected traffic.


One of the fastest growing online companies, and another example of a website that was ill-prepared for the overwhelming response one of its promotions would yield. In August, Groupon launched its first nationwide deal -- a reduced price gift certificate to the Gap. Users from dozens of cities across the country flooded -- and crashed -- the site to take advantage of the deal. Despite the outage, 400,000 Groupons were sold.


What would the year be without at least a couple of blips on the Twitter performance radar? The microblogging site experienced its first outage of the New Year early in the morning on Jan. 20. The crash coming right after a 6.1 aftershock shook the nation of Haiti. A few months later, the energy surrounding the World Cup tournament yielded a record number of tweets and traffic for the site. Outages and other performance bugs ensued. Add to these issues regularly scheduled maintenance and upgrades, and June quickly became Twitter's worst performing month on record. Twitter's seeming inability to withstand high rates of visitors and postings brings into question its utility as a reliable vehicle of mass news dissemination.

MasterCard and Visa

The most recent Web performance incidents shed light on the vulnerability of many websites to denial of service and other cyber attacks. During the first full week of December, a group of hackers -- supporters of WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange -- orchestrated a DDoS attack, taking down the corporate sites of these payments providers.

So how did these outages affect you? Are there any we missed that you would add to the list?


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