Web Services Thrive, but Outages Outrage Users

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By Adam Pasick

Web sites that share blogs, bookmarks and photos exploded in
popularity in 2005, but in recent weeks a number of major outages left
users stranded and frustrated.

The new breed of Web site includes blogging services such as TypePad,
the photo site Flickr, the shared bookmark site del.icio.us and many
others.  They are sometimes known collectively as "Web 2.0": hosted
online, relying heavily on users' submissions, and frequently updated
and tweaked by their owners.

Their growth in the last year has been huge. Flickr and del.icio.us
were high-profile acquisitions for Internet giant Yahoo, and there are
now at least 20 million blogs in existence, according to some
estimates, with tens of thousands being added every day.

But the surge in Web-based applications hasn't come without some
serious hiccups as several notable services have crashed.

Six Apart, whose TypePad service is used by many high-profile
bloggers, experienced nearly an entire day of downtime on December 16,
when it suffered a hardware failure. Del.icio.us had a major power
failure on December 14. Services including Bloglines, Feedster and
WordPress have also experienced problems.

Nothing underlines the importance of these "social media" services as
much as the outcry of users when the sites crash. While the services
were usually back up and running within a few days at most, the
outages prompted much consternation from users who were temporarily
unable to share their blogs and bookmarks with the world.

Russell Buckley and Carlo Longino wrote on their blog MobHappy
http://mobhappy.typepad.com/ that waiting for TypePad to be fixed
was like "waiting for a train to arrive, when you're sitting on a
cold, damp platform. It's mildly irritating for the first 5 minutes,
but then annoyance levels start to rise exponentially."

"TypePad has been growing so rapidly that it is finding the hard way
that scale and scalability matter," Business 2.0 technology writer Om
Malik wrote on his blog (http://gigaom.com /). "Are they the only ones?
Not really -- over (the) past few days Bloglines, Feedster and
Wordpress.com have been behaving like a temperamental 3-year-old."

The usefulness of Web 2.0 services -- which also include the
collaborative Web pages known as Wikis and RSS feeds that deliver
customized information to users -- is highlighted when they are
abruptly taken away.

"You need those services to be 'on.' I have come to expect 99.9
percent uptime, and when a service crashes there is significant
frustration," said David Boxer, director of instructional technology
and research at the Windward School in Los Angeles, where he runs
workshops on subjects like podcasting and photoblogging.

"When those services go down, then we are stuck in a ditch," he said.

Boxer's students have worked on projects aimed at making them "citizen
journalists" via publishing their own blogs, podcasts, documentaries
and photo essays. But when those services suffer outages, everything
grinds to a halt.

When the Blogger Web site went down, Boxer's students lost some of
their work. And when del.icio.us crashed recently, "it left me
personally in a lurch," he said.

"I knew that eventually a machine or software application will crash,
but I always expect a third-party provider like del.icio.us will build
enough redundancy into the infrastructure that it will never go down,"
Boxer said.

It is still early days for Web 2.0, and some of the recent
difficulties are likely just teething problems as companies adapt to
their new popularity.  However, the outages may make it harder to
convince businesses and investors that blogging is ready for
primetime.

Boxer, for one, is willing to ride out a few outages to take advantage
of the new services.

"They allow for elements of personalization, content delivery and
information pushing unlike any previous incarnation of the Net," he
said.

WEB 2.0 LINKS

TypePad http://www.typepad.com/ : A paid-for service for publishing
blogs and photo albums. Competitors include Wordpress
http://wordpress.org/ and Google's Blogger.com http://www.blogger.com .

Flickr http://www.flickr.com /: An online service for sharing and
managing photos.

Del.icio.us http://del.icio.us : A site for storing and sharing
bookmarked Web pages.

Computer book publisher Tim O'Reilly's essay on Web 2.0
http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: This is sort of what happened to me
a bit over a week ago. I was in the process of setting up, remodeling
and improving the Internet Historical Society web site. I had
downloaded it all from its old location, had it in storage, and was
working with a fellow who had found a quite nice (speaking in internet
real-estate terms) location; was in the process of shoving things
around to build its new home, and then -- the hard drive it was all
stored on here, _including the passwords, the access to the new
location, his name and email address, etc -- all went bye, bye. Picture
if you will, you are building a new house, and it all gets destroyed,
catches fire, whatever, a week or two before you are going to move in.

So I spoke to the old host who had put it all in a .zip file in
storage somewhere, got it once again, and now am setting about
beginning it again. Obviously I will miss my anticipated start up date
of January 1, as I mentioned here about a week ago. But oh well, that
is life I guess. At least the majority of my links, etc can be
reconstructed.  PAT]


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