Here’s something just too clever to not blog about, a new site that let’s you test whether a site is up, or whether it’s just your connection. Called downforeveryoneorjustme.com, the site is a model of simplicity and effectiveness. In fact, this may be the best homepage ever, beating Google’s for stark simplicity and direct usability.
I came across this site thanks to a New York Times article about the new concerns over crashes and online availability. Basically, as we move more stuff online (photos, videos, spreadsheets, social networks, contact lists, commerce [selling and banking], and texting), downtime can mean lost productivity and, for providers, shaky trust:
The problem is that this ideal [having information more accessible online than it is in the real world] requires Web services to be available around the clock — and even the Internet’s biggest companies sometimes have trouble making that happen.
Last holiday season, Yahoo’s system for Internet retailers, Yahoo Merchant Solutions, went dark for 14 hours, taking down thousands of e-commerce companies on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. In February, certain Amazon services that power the sites of many Web start-up companies had a day of intermittent failures, knocking many of those companies offline.
The causes of these problems range widely: it might be system upgrades with unintended consequences, human error (oops, wrong button) or even just old-fashioned electrical failures. Last month, an electrical explosion in a Houston data center of the Planet, a Web hosting company, knocked thousands of Web businesses off the Internet for up to five days.
Paradoxically, even downforeveryoneorjustme.com has suffered from downtime. When Google had a problem, the service, hosted on Google’s servers, was unavailable as well.
Over-reliance on new technologies, or even old technologies, is unwise. I think every house with electrical lights also has flashlights, candles, and matches. We know the technology fails from time to time.
For STM publishers, the stakes aren’t yet as high as they have become for the major online retailers and service providers. However, uptime is a part of some licensing arrangements, and traffic can certainly feed online business models.
As our development of interesting online-only services continues, the infrastructure demands and costs will grow. The stakes in basic operational availability will only get higher.