Will Election Traffic Crash the Net?

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Doomsday, Tuesday

Will Election Traffic Crash the Net?

By Sascha Segan

Nov. 6 B First the bad news.

During the last presidential election, a good chunk of the Internet crashed B spectacularly. Web sites were brought to their knees by a combination of heavy traffic and a failed cross-country backbone line.

The good news is, experts say thatBs unlikely to happen again.

BThe Internet infrastructure has really improved over the last four years,B says Michaelangelo Volpi, chief strategy officer and senior vice president of Cisco, which makes most of the hardware that directs Internet traffic.

Past Disasters

Call it ground zero. Around 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 1996, ABCNEWS had called Bill Clinton as the winner of the election B and at PoliticsNow, the political Web site run by ABCNEWS, the Washington Post and the National Journal, they couldnBt put out the news. They couldnBt even access their own servers.

BIt was horribly frustrating. There was nothing you could do. A lot of it was out of your hands,B said Evans Witt, who was managing editor of PoliticsNow at the time and is now president of Princeton Survey Research Associates.

It wasnBt just PoliticsNow, either. Web surfers of B96, much fewer than today, found their connections had largely ground to a halt.

The immediate culprit was a busted cross-country Internet pipe which was spewing out bad data, Witt said. But that wasnBt the only flaw. Like many sites at the time, PoliticsNow had its servers in one place (in their case, Palo Alto, Calif.) meaning a breakdown in a long-distance line would cut the East off from their systems. Most large sites now have backup servers in various parts of the country so users are automatically directed to the nearest BbranchB server.

And the Internet in general was a lot less stable back then.

BItBs almost easy to forget that peopleBs e-mail in the entire Northeast would suddenly go down for a day. It was a very early stage in this whole online news business,B recalls Mark Stencel, who was an editor at PoliticsNow and is now political editor for washingtonpost.com.

Getting Better All the Time

The Internet has grown a lot in the past four years.

In July 1996, there were about 16,729,000 machines on the Internet, according to the Internet Software Consortium., which has been doing surveys of the size of the Net since 1981. By July 2000, there were 93,047,785 machines, the ISC said in its most recent survey.

More companies, and more fiber-optic lines, form the Internet backbone so if one breaks the others can handle the load, Volpi said. Driven by audio, video and competition, the information superhighway has built lanes even faster than drivers have been coming to ride on them, he said.

Witt and Stencel said four years of preparation, including emergency plans for the Year 2000 bug, have put political sites in better shape this time around. Web surfers also wonBt be using the Internet to the max, Witt said B theyBll be trading off between the Web and TV.

Michael Vizard, editor in chief of InfoWorld magazine, agrees Tuesday wonBt be a replay of 1996. Traffic may be heavy, he says, but the Internet will survive. Anything that does go wrong, he said, will be more likely to be human than technological error.

BOdds are good that weBll still see some sub-optimal performance numbers on election night, but it will be far from catastrophic,B he said.

-- The 1996 (and@2000.campaigns), November 06, 2000


It's all interconnected. The problem is systemic. The traffic will reach a point where the entire internet shuts down and cause cascading failures in other systems, eventually leading to the demise of civilization. Planes will fall from the sky. Oil wells will explode. There will be looting and rioting in the streets. It will be madness, utter madness. Stay alert and well-armed and finish up your preps!! Soon there will be nothing left!!!

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), November 06, 2000.

I haveB noticed that whenB this personB postsB that B thereB are a Ba lot ofBs.BAny one elseB noticeB thisB?

-- Dan Newsome (BOONSTAR1@webtv.net), November 06, 2000.

It seems to happen when one copies "smart" quotes and apostrophes from another page and pastes it here. My guess is that Phil changed something so that these quotes and apostrophes are no longer supported. It seems okay if you just use the "dumb" ones. """'''''""""'''''"""""""'''''"""'"""""'""""""'''''''''''''"""""' ''""""

-- (hmm@hmm.hmm), November 06, 2000.


LOL...I've been dying to say that.

-- Peg (em@i.l), November 06, 2000.

New York and California results won't be totally known for a few days, it seems. No need to rush onto the internet Tuesday night.

If it isn't one thing, it's another.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), November 06, 2000.

>> It's all interconnected. The problem is systemic. [...] There will be looting and rioting in the streets. <<

I predict the looting will begin before the end of October once the sheeple panic. If you haven't finished your preps by the conventions you will be too late.

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), November 06, 2000.


Sites strain under demand for election news

By Patricia Jacobus

Staff Writer, CNET News.com

November 7, 2000, 6:40 p.m. PT

As election results trickled in Tuesday evening, several online news organizations and campaign Web sites buckled under the weight of heavy traffic from visitors eager to know who was inching ahead in the tight presidential race.

MSNBC.com, Voter.com and Drudgereport.com all experienced prolonged outages, while other sites such as Democrats.org and VoteNader.com were showing stress, taking much longer than usual to download.

Traffic figures were not immediately available, but Web performance reports conducted by San Mateo, Calif.-based Keynote Systems showed that as the day progressed, most sites providing election coverage were slowing considerably.

"All the sites are getting slow," said Keynote spokeswoman Mary Lindsay. "But most are available. In other words, if you sat for it you'll eventually get it."

For most of the day there wasn't much of a buzz on the Net aside from pleas urging people to vote. Yet, once the Electoral College results were available, political junkies rushed to the Web for results.

For example, MSNBC took a little more than two seconds to call up and was available 100 percent of the time between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. PST Tuesday, Keynote reports show. But by noon, the site was already showing trouble, taking about 24 seconds to access and sometimes not being available at all.

Some political analysts had predicted the Web would not be able to compete with television as results were called.

Perhaps the prediction is true, not for lack of interest on the part of voters who are rushing to the Net for information but rather because some of the sites can't support the big demand.

-- (election@of.2000), November 12, 2000.

Will Election Traffic Crash the Net?


(Call me a prophet[ess].)

-- Patricia (PatriciaS@lasvegas.com), November 12, 2000.

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