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The Media

BBC on Website Slow Downs 207

HiveMaster writes "The BBC is carrying a report about the impact on websites as people try to get news regarding the war in Iraq. It talks of a report from Keynote Systems, which tests the reponsiveness of websites, which shows that the BBC news site has shown a fourfold increase in response times. However, Government sites in both the US and the UK are being hit, with the US Army site taking over 80 seconds to load at peak times." Also, here is a press release this. You can also read My journal where I've talked quite a bit about what Slashdot has done in preperation for traffic bursts.
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BBC on Website Slow Downs

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  • Hmmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:03PM (#5568332) Homepage Journal
    so if Taco posts a link to his own journal in the article header, can he /. /.???
    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Ann Coulter ( 614889 )
      I've always wondered, why is /. immune to the /. effect anyway?
      • Re:Hmmm... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Chibi ( 232518 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:19PM (#5568536) Journal

        I've always wondered, why is /. immune to the /. effect anyway?

        Here's a link [] to the "Tech" section of the FAQ [], which is probably a good place to start.

      • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Informative)

        by dhovis ( 303725 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:31PM (#5568694)

        OK, why did this get modded up?

        Slashdot is a high traffic website, and as such, it has to be designed to handle the load that it gets. Sites that get /.ed are usually low traffic sites that aren't set up to the sort of page views that Slashdot.

        OTOH, Slashdot generally doesn't have any effect on other high traffic sites. You don't see the /. effect on sites like CNN, Microsoft, Apple, Cisco, or the NY Times. It is when Slashdot links to someone who put up a picture of their case mod, they likely aren't set up to handle the same sort of traffic that /. does and they become inaccessable.

      • Re:Hmmm... (Score:3, Funny)

        by Error27 ( 100234 )
        Because it runs on MySQL.

      • Because slashdot has well made servers with nice fat pipes. Many sites do not get "slashdotted" when they get slashdotted, it's only the smaller sites with cheap hosting that get taken down.

      • Re:Hmmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by realdpk ( 116490 )
        I'm not sure if this counts as /.'ing, but /. is quite frequently broken. It forgets that you are logged in, unable to verify your cookie I assume, and sometimes you can't even view articles, they just take you to the homepage.

        Then the next day it all works again (I only check a couple of times a day, so to be fair, it could have been fixed the same day)
    • If /. /.'s /., then is it still officially a /.?
    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kircle ( 564389 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:17PM (#5568515)
      nope, but an interesting side effect could probably be more ad impressions and as a result, more revenue. honestly, /. could easily get more advertising impressions if they started temporarily mirroring the content from the stories posted on slashdot. everyone knows about the slashdot effect. why not use that in a manner where both slashdot and slashdot readers benefit?
      • Re:Hmmm... (Score:3, Informative)

        Because, as someone invariably mentions every time someone proposes content mirroring as a solution to The Slashdot Effect, the legality of such an action would be marginal at best. I don't think OSDN particularly wants to spend money on defending itself in copyright infringement lawsuits all the time.

        Ad impressions for stories on a non-Slashdot site "belong" to the operators of that site, not to Slashdot. Mirroring a webpage would "steal" those ad impressions.
    • How much / could a /.ter / if a /.ter could /. /.?
  • by SuDZ ( 450180 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:03PM (#5568334)
    Shameless plug for your journal to get us to read it? ;)

    • I think he just wanted to enjoy knowing that we couldn't post any comments there.

      Did you see the part where he said "We're also going to move the AC default threshold to 2."? For a moment I though he meant that AC comments would start out scored at 2. Now that's a scary thought. Of course it's fun to think about
      ACs reloading the page and wondering why they can't see their own post.

  • by babyblink ( 615951 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:03PM (#5568338)
    since you just slashdot it...
  • by caseyc ( 559060 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:04PM (#5568345)
    Another factor that may be contributing to this is a sudden drop in availability of communications satellites. The Department of Defense has been buying up bandwidth on commercial com satellites for their own use during the war.
  • by iturbide ( 39881 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:05PM (#5568365) Homepage
    Basically, as long as you don't get a bandwith problem, putting a proxy-cache configured for acceleration in front of the website itself is the way to go. In times like this, 95% of the visitors wants the same news. The cache will serve them their data, so that the server itself does not die under the load of having to rethink every individual request.
    • Also can have a mirror server on other bandwidth that rejects connections that don't come through a known caching proxy server. I like to reject traffic from people this way if my load becomes to high. That way anyone that still wants to access my server can use or some other major proxy servers. Any decent ISP should also offer such a proxy their users can use.
    • by djh101010 ( 656795 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:56PM (#5568942) Homepage Journal
      While a proxy-cache takes care of the server load issues, it just fixes half of the problem. Your cache then becomes the limiting factor, and the same problems with servicing the connections and load just gets displaced from one box to another.

      Page load times can be vastly improved by hiring someone with a bunch of capacity spread around the country/world, and having the content served from the closest server to the user. Akamai is one provider, there are probably others. Effectively, it gives you thousands of webservers to handle your load. Beats trying to predict when and how much the load is going to spike. (I wonder if any akamaized sites have been slashdotted, and how the usage graphs for that look?)
    • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @05:03PM (#5569044) Homepage Journal
      IF your data can be cached. Same thing with slashdot, the webpage is rendered depending on your karma, and account. Cache wont work, when its re-rendered for each person. (It should work for all the AC's loading the same page thou...)

      We use cheap netra t1's in a cluster behind load balancers, but our bandwidth usage per user is very small (1-5K) compared to Slashdot 50-100K page pulls.

      Strange how people design networks and server configurations without knowing the purpose. This is why when a product is handed off to the customer, they customers end up redesignning the architecture. Its not a cookie cutter world people...

      You know the world's gone mad when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the Swiss hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the USA of arrogance and the Germans don't want to go to war.
  • Internet hacks? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thoolie ( 442789 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:05PM (#5568367)
    I was just reading on (don't check the site, it is WAY biased) that weren't holding back on defacing websites for patriotic / anti-war purposed. It is kind of nice to see people use other forms of protest / show of spirit. If anybody has any examples, please post under this!

    • i saw something to the same effect scroll across the screen on CNN earlier today. it said something about the targets being US and UK government and buisness sites, can anyone confirm that?
    • The bias........ (Score:4, Interesting)

      by thoolie ( 442789 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:27PM (#5568639)
      Sorry about the obvious contradiction in my statement. I was watching Foxnews, not watching If you want to confirm what i saw, go to (or any other site). Yes, it is a bised site, I was watching it, because it was the channel that was in in the college lounge.

      And about the bised part, where i am, every 30 minutes, a big cross goes on the screen telling us to pray to god for the sake of our solders. A little to the right i think. Personally, i check for my info.

      But you know this is a big deal, i am watching Tom Browka crying on LIVE NBC TV! It really makes you think. I am 100% behind my friends and comrads that are in this bloody mess. We all know kids that are there, i am behind them. I am not necessarily behind bush.

      Thanks for letting me clear this up. :-)
      • And about the bised part, where i am, every 30 minutes, a big cross goes on the screen telling us to pray to god for the sake of our solders.

        Along with Saddam's countdown to death and the alert-o-meter, I think everyone knows by now that Fox News is a piece of crap. Fox News is more like Hard Copy than CNN, and even CNN is pushing the limits of good taste.
      • "...every 30 minutes, a big cross goes on the screen telling us to pray to god for the sake of our solders."

        But only for our Christian soldiers, right? The rest are on their own?

        Speaking of prayer, they just had the guy in the mosque tower giving the call to prayer in Baghdad. I would have thought that the sound of U.S. ordinance would have had that covered already.

        Hope we missed as many civilian targets as possible.

        • But only for our Christian soldiers, right? The rest are on their own?

          C'mon, you know that's not true. We pray for ALL the coalition troops. That includes the thousands of Muslims in the U.S. military. I pray also for Iraq's downtrodden, ragtag troops, who are forced to fight for Saddam.

          Hope we missed as many civilian targets as possible.

          I hope we didn't miss any! We drop bombs on military targets, but food and supplies on civilian targets.

          • Let's just say that I'm really uncomfortable with even the "fairly unbalanced" news channel affiliating itself with any one religion.

            If they ran that same spot with a Star of David or the Islamic Crescent symbol instead of a cross, imagine all the flack they'd catch.

            Let me amend my previous statement. I hope our bombs don't hurt any people ('cept maybe that little Stalin wannabe and those who share in his guilt), but that they do such a scary job on a bunch of replaceable buildings (as opposed to ancient s

  • by BoomerSooner ( 308737 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:05PM (#5568368) Homepage Journal
    They run the whole thing off of a Sun Blade 500MHz with 2GB RAM [].

    Pretty cool actually.
    • They run the whole thing off of a Sun Blade 500MHz with 2GB RAM

      And, according to the FAQ, Slashdot is run off 600MHz CPUs in a modestly-sized cluster. Stuff like this makes me look at the crap-apps running on our SMP "enterprise" servers and shake my head.

      I think I've been hearing "we can just throw more hardware at it later" ever since my first 386...

    • As many comments on this previous story [] point out, what they do at Ace's Hardware is not very impressive. They don't get much traffic, and they are serving what are essentially static pages. If they replaced their caching system with a bunch of static pages (generated by spidering their page generator maybe), it would have better performance. That's what Slashdot does for the front page when you aren't logged in.
  • oi (Score:5, Funny)

    by Judg3 ( 88435 ) <(jeremy) (at) (> on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:05PM (#5568369) Homepage Journal
    "Here's a bunch of links to some sites that are really really unresponsive now because of the war. Everyone please go check them out"

    There's a joke in there somewhere, for sure.
    • Future BBC Webmaster 1981:
      Girls don't like me because I'm too smart. I'm not gay, damnit!

      BBC Webmaster 2003:
      You can't get to the site because of the war. I'm not gay, damnit!
  • by bahwi ( 43111 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:05PM (#5568377)
    The BBC is under heavy load. Click here [] to see how slow their website is loading!

    • are watching the BBC video stream. It's much more clear and less "ooooh, shiny tanks!" than the major American newsfeeds. Pulling that stream over the transatlantic channels is always going to be slow.

      A friend of mine told me he's only been watching the Naked News since the war started. Apparently reports of massive explosions, hundreds of tanks, and Iraqi citizens partying in the streets just seems to sound so much clearer when reported by nude people. I'll have to try it.

  • slashdot (Score:4, Funny)

    by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:05PM (#5568380) Homepage
    great, talking about web site slow downs, and then we go slashdot them!
  • by Mothra the III ( 631161 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:06PM (#5568382)
    Where is the term "Slashdot effect" in this article?
  • I was just enjoying the fact that the BBC news site was running suitably fast.. and then it got posted to Slashdot!!
  • by dattaway ( 3088 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:07PM (#5568393) Homepage Journal
    This [] might be good news for those who wish to take up the slack. The whole internet shouldn't be about several large web sites.
  • Fourfold!?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TrevorB ( 57780 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:08PM (#5568399) Homepage
    Let's see. Loading the from Western Canada, right... now!

    10 seconds to render the whole page. OK, that's been significantly faster than I've been experiencing the last few days, It's been about 30-40 seconds in some instances in the past several days.

    Do try the low graphics version of the BBC, it loads almost instantly, and you can click on "Low Graphics" version while the rest of the page is trying to load.

    CNN does seem significantly better than years ago during major events. They must have tackling the planetary event slashdot effect thing down. But then again, I voted "Any non-us venue" on the poll.. :)
  • by Saggy ( 142571 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:09PM (#5568419)
    In other news, the BBC's website slows down as Slashdot, news for nerds, reports on the BBC reporting about website slow downs...
  • Freedom of speech is worthless if people can't access crucial information. 9/11 is a clear example of a time when the internet was central to news distribution.

    If the US government were to provide resources and capacity for crucial websites at times of need, it could also indirectly influence what they say. A win/win situation.

  • They think it's the war that is causing so many hits but we know that the web site was mentioned on /. and that alone is enough to bring most sites to their knees!
  • How ironic... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:10PM (#5568432)
    ... Slashdot making preparations for traffic spikes. I think we richly deserve to get massacred for days - shall we say ten minutes of downtime for every website we've blasted off the net over the years?

    ISTR that the NYT websute switched to a very graphics-light format in 11 September 2001, in order to cope with the mass traffic. Slashdot is already mostly text, but if necessary it could be lightened a bit. But I imagine the main load is CPU and memory, handling all those database queries and updates, rather than bandwidth; I don't see an easy way of dealing with that short of adding a few more machines. Imagine a... No, I won't :-)

  • what do you mean: they are busy from legitimate traffic, or that they are being DOSed?
  • by ch-chuck ( 9622 )
    strangely enough, my site about Spacewar (1961 game) on the Altair (1975 computer) got one hit yesterday from

  • Light pages (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rednaxel ( 532554 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:11PM (#5568451) Homepage Journal
    This shows the importance of light pages. The wide use of broad band has led many to ignore old guidelines. There's a lot of bloated pages with tons of ill-optimized pics and unnecessary gadgets.

    According this [], the average web page is around 90 Kb. Google is a little over 10 Kb.

    • Re:Light pages (Score:5, Informative)

      by NerveGas ( 168686 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:22PM (#5568569)

      Actually, the pages probably don't have a whole lot to do with it. Transmition is light. You can saturate a 100 mbit link without much hardware at all.

      The real expense is in the database processing. The cost of performing even a relatively simple SQL query is generally a lot higher than the cost of serving out several large images.

  • unbelivable.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by odyrithm ( 461343 )
    the US putting up a "stars and strips" the UK went in first, they went in with you.. and you have the upmost disguting thought that to put up your flag.. you make me sick!
    • the star and stripes went up in the field that the US took, the british we're delayed taking the field they took, due to enemy resistance.

    • It's not about who went in first. The objective of the war is to liberate Iraq, not conquer it, and therefore NO member of the military of ANY country should be raising their country's flag.

      • How about if we come up with a new Iraqi flag, similar enough to the current one to be recognizable as Iraqi, but different enough from the current one to be recognizable as new? Then we could take down the old Iraqi flag, run ours up for a moment and then bring it back down and run up the new one and tell everybody it's the flag of the new Iraq until the new democratic republic of Iraq is up and running and can decide for themselves about a new, "You have just entered a Saddam-free zone" flag.
  • Iraq too (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GiMP ( 10923 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:16PM (#5568504)
    Iraq's website,, has been inaccessible quite often.. during the few occassions it has been online, it has been terribly slow.
    • I want to know, how can their site be up? I thought that Internet access was shut down via the UN as part of the trade embargo.

      BTW, Was funny to read Sadam's speechs on that site. The other interesting part was the names of the hospitals and schools, Sadam this, hussein that....

      Also, I should really be using an anon-proxy, all I need is my IP's showing up on their webservers logs.

      you know the world's gone mad when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the Swiss hold the Americ
  • We're already thinking about rolling it back. Lots of complaints about slow machines.
  • Certainly I am keeping myself informed of the latest events surrounding the war, but on a lighter note -- I don't know how I would get through the work week without listening Pete Tong's [] Essential Selection [] every Friday after lunch, and today the stream halts and has to re-buffer every 30 seconds or so.

    Such are the side effects of outrageously high demand for their news content, I guess.

  • We all slow down, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Openadvocate ( 573093 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:20PM (#5568554)
    Some of us choose to have a structure that can handle peak loads in times like this, other choose not to. Of course it costs more money to be able to handle the load, and the hardware will sit idle most of the time. But it is a decision you just need to take. "Do we require that we can display full content at peak times".
    Many sites have prepared for this pressure in the days before, specially when the 48 hour deadline came, another server or two got into the pool in the loadbalancers. :)
  • "Keynote Systems, which regularly tests the response times of busy websites, said the responsiveness of BBC News Online suffered during the busy lunchtime period with average download times rising from 0.47 seconds to 1.88 seconds."

    I had their live video feed going for an hour or so this afternoon. It lost about 12% of the packets. Not bad considering the same thing on CNN wouldn't load. I tried to check out the BBC World broadband live feed, but that requires registering for some sort of free (Real??)
  • by Sabalon ( 1684 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:23PM (#5568595)
    My boss came to me around the 13th asking what were we gonna do on the 17th if we went to war...basically, how are mission critical apps gonna communicate over our school's internet connection if everyone is streaming video of war coverage?

    Luckily Shock and Awe started after most of our classes were done for the week and Thurs wasn't that bad. I guess with all the Kazaa traffic, streaming web didn't stand a chance :)

    Can't wait for that packetshaper to get here.

  • A new book? (Score:3, Funny)

    by StarTux ( 230379 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:24PM (#5568603) Journal
    "The Slashdot guide to the Slashdot effect"

    In smaller print:

    Business guide to avoding web slow downs.

    Thought I'd keep my typo/spelling mistake for real effect...

  • everything seems to be a can of worms with you mr tacho.
  • by Patman ( 32745 ) <pmgeahan-slashdo ... g ['ave' in gap]> on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:24PM (#5568608) Homepage
    ...especially for a large site, consider deploying something like Squid for times like these.

    Make it transparent most of the time, but on days like today, cache,,, whatever. Cuts down on bandwidth utilization both for your company and for the target site.
  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:29PM (#5568677) Homepage Journal
    Why is this news. Web pages are so bloated with ads, gratuitous graphics, useless animation, and calls to 10 different servers that set 20 different cookies that they barely meet usability guidelines in normal situations. Given this bloat is acceptable design, it is no wonder that the pages fail under stressful situation. There are a few exceptions to this, /. being one of them. Usually very good response, and apparently a good understanding of bottlenecks that can be removed to improve performance.

    I would reference Home Page Usability [] in which rule #94 is to have an alternate home page for times of emergency. The New York Times had a successful deployment of such a page on 9/11, and seems to be meeting demand now. I wonder how many others agencies have emergency web pages set up that can better meet demand.

  • What's the point... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Metroid72 ( 654017 )
    Slashdot got slashdotted too: Internal Server Error The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request. Please contact the server administrator, and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error. More information about this error may be available in the server error log. Apache/1.3.26 Server at Port 80
  • by CySurflex ( 564206 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:33PM (#5568712)
    War on Iraq is causing all these web sites to slow down?!?

    Finally a force stronger than the slashdot effect.

  • by MattRog ( 527508 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:36PM (#5568737)
    It is pretty easy -- make them non-dynamic, something along the lines of:
    <- prev | next ->

    Which points to something like "current_article_url&goto=prev" and "current_article_url&goto=next". That would avoid a database call until you actually click the link (it would translate that into the actual previous and next articles and then show the correct one).

    Of course, you lose a little bit of the dynamic site aspect but if you *really* can't remember what the next article was you can always keep the main page open in a new browser window/tab and refer back to it.
  • thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @04:37PM (#5568748) Journal
    Slashdot team:

    I know I'll be unpopular by saying this, but thanks for all the hard work. You guys have a lot of experience handling rediculous loads, so when stuff like this comes around, /. stands firm. While the rest of the internet is slowing to a crawl, I can depend on pretty nice response times from you. On Sept 11, /. was one of the only news sites that was actually responding. When I can't get a TV, I'll be checking /. for war coverage. I know a lot of people are complaining that war isn't "News for Nerds", but it most certainly is news and I'm glad /. has stepped up to the call of duty on this one.
  • No Livestream (Score:2, Informative)

    The Livestream is really fucked up. But I found a list of Internet-TV stations []. But I think there are some other stations.
  • The story to me seems the opposite. Web sites are handling this quite well. The BBC is WFM currently. No big slowdown.

    More to the point, both NY Times [] and [] are serving huge images on their home page. MSNBC, FOXNEWS and CNN also seem to have no problem keeping up with my broadband connection.

    And they have been quite responsive.

    They are even serving up video and audio.

    Seem prepared to me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21, 2003 @05:02PM (#5569030)
    If you want to see oodles of stats about the BBC's own website, take a gander at []

    Lots of mrtg graphs, response times, uptimes etc. Even a webcam of the support team :-)
  • by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @05:14PM (#5569170) Journal
    We host a fair few (60 or so) financial-orientated websites, with an average query-level of some 10-20 queries per second on the database supporting those sites.

    We have an 8-way cluster of machines to support this (way-overkill for the most part) but recently, we've been (almost) hitting limits... The apache service has logged peaks of 1000 connections/second, with the DB query-level going as high as 70,000/second....

    I'm actually fairly happy that the system can more-or-less cope with the load, but nonetheless, I want to make sure (or at least as-sure-as-possible) that we can't be easily DOS'd, so this weekend I'll be writing an Apache module to monitor the number-of-connections-per-second on an IP-by-IP basis, and take a decision to run a script depending on thresholds....

    I think stateful firewalls could probably manage it but for historical reasons we're stuck with what we have, and having apache call a bandwidth-limiting script on an IP address that's registered 5000 hits in the last minute (for example) seems reasonable :-)

    If there's something that can do this already, I'd like to know - I've found (ntal []), but running a script per packet doesn't appeal :-( I prefer the idea of hitting a limit in Apache that triggers a script that limits access (dynamic firewalls [])

    Ideas gratefully received :-)

  • by szyzyg ( 7313 ) on Friday March 21, 2003 @06:08PM (#5569817)
    I can't tune into BBC Radio 1 at their yearly DJ party in Miami... the Real Audio server is just too loaded.

    Dammit some of us are interested in *real* news.
    All I care about is the weapons of mass dancing that the DJ's are going to be showing off.

"The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception a neccessity." - Oscar Wilde