Europeana website overwhelmed on its first day by interest of millions of users
21 November 2008
On the first day of its launch (20 November 2008), Europe’s digital library Europeana was overwhelmed by the interest shown by millions of users in this new project. On the basis of expert advice, Europeana had anticipated up to 5 million hits per hour on the site. The real interest was 3 times as strong.
This massive interest slowed down the service so much that after having already doubled server capacity yesterday at noon, the Europeana management in The Hague (Netherlands) and the European Commission last night had to temporarily take down the site to take pressure off it.
This is an unexpected difficulty, but it is also an encouraging sign that citizens in Europe and around the world have great interest in Europe’s digital library. It also provides strong motivation for the Europeana team and the experts from the Commission working on the project to intensify their efforts and the site’s technical back-up even further.
Europeana must now be made more robust to deal with peak hour requests as they happened yesterday – thousands of users searching in the very same second for famous cultural works like the Mona Lisa or books from Kafka, Cervantes or James Joyce. The European Commission and the experts from the Europeana project are working on this day and night to make a fully functional Europeana service available as soon as possible.
The Commission and the Europeana management are confident that Europeana will be up and running again by mid-December.
For the time being, a demo version of Europeana will be available at http://dev.europeana.eu/.
1. Why was the site down?
The site was down because of massive interest, which shows the enormous potential of Europeana for bringing cultural treasures from Europe’s cultural institutions to the wide public. The 3 servers employed to support Europeana in The Netherlands could not cope with the traffic of around 10 million hits per hour (3,000 concurrent users – users doing the same thing at the exact same time), which led to the slowing down or the temporary unavailability of Europeana on Thursday, 20 November.
2. How long was the site down?
The site went down several times (for periods lasting from a few minutes to an hour). It was slow throughout the day. Some users experienced more inconvenience than others, because of a load balancing issue (the way the traffic is handled by one server or another) between the 3 servers.
3. Did the traffic increase on Thursday afternoon?
The traffic increased in the afternoon and reached 13 million hits per hour (4,000 concurrent users).
4. Where did the hits come from?
The most interest came from Germany, France, Spain, Italy and The Netherlands. 4% came also from the United States. (See figures attached)
5. Could this have been expected?
Great interest among European citizens for this early operational version of Europeana was expected by the Europeana management, but not to such a massive extent. To make a comparison: over a period of 4 hours, the site was visited by more individual users and hits than the previous web service ‘The European Library’ run by the national libraries, in a whole year. Stress tests were carried out on the site, and it performed well at levels of up to 5 million hits per hour, a figure based on expert advice.
6. What measures have been taken by Europeana to improve the situation?
After the site went down for the first time at about 11.00 hrs on Thursday, 20 November, the Europeana management in The Hague managed to increase computer capacity to deal with 8 million hits per hour (3 million more than what IT experts had foreseen and who had tested the site). This helped for a while, but did not prove to be enough. A serious upgrade of computer capacity will be carried out in the coming days and then tested in order to cope with the massive interest from the public.
7. What has the Commission done to solve the technical problem?
The Commission stayed in close touch with the management of Europeana throughout yesterday and during the night. Last night it concluded with Europeana’s management that it would be better to close the site at the moment and come back when the teething problems, particularly the capacity issue, are ironed out. This decision was implemented early on Friday, 21 November. Users can expect the Europeana site to work normally by mid-December.
Posted by Tom Rink