Most Major Online Only Events In India Failed In 2009

By | March 12, 2010

In the recent times, many Internet applications performance issues are raised in India. Keeping the various reasons aside, many online applications and online tests didn’t perform well.

In 2009, election commission’s website server crashed for over two hours due to the huge traffic when the election results were announced. Conducting its first online test in 2009, Common Admission Test received several concerns from its applicants. Another incident as IGNOU online test went down in the middle during the test. Also, routinely almost all bank websites show up many issues during tax paying days.

Not A New Phenomenon Globally
Failure of Internet applications is not a new phenomenon globally. Many similar events exists showing that building effective Internet applications is not an easy job.

1.     Victoria Secrets Case
In 1999, Victoria Secret aired a 30-second TV advertisement during the Super Bowl game, which is a most popular championship game of the National Football League in North America. The advertisement received a tremendous response from the viewers. As soon as the Super Bowl game was over, Victoria Secret website received 1.5 millions of visitors at once to view the fashion show telecasted online. As a result the website crashed for some visitors, which led to e-mail complaints from disappointed viewers.

2.     CNN Website Down After 9/11 Attacks
When the WTC terrorist attacks happened on September 11, 2001, CNN’s website slowed down after getting massive number of hits from visitors. As reported by CNN.com, it received 9 million hit per hour throughout that day, compared to its daily average of 11 million.

3.     Google News Effected On Michael Jackson’s Death
On June 25, 2009 when Michael Jackson died, most of the popular news sites were crashed. Google News users reported that the website was inaccessible and prompted for CAPTCHA considering the huge search traffic as a virus attack. Many other websites like TMZ.com, Twitter, LATimes crashed down for some time. However, CNN.com reported 20 million visitors in one hour when the story broke yet did not reported any website crash.

In all the three cases above, there are incidents when their websites or Internet applications crashed or failed to perform instructions. However the most important thing to observe here is that all these are unplanned and sudden events occurred unpredictably. In all the situations unexpected incidents are the causes, unlike the failure of scheduled incidents that recently happened in India.

What Could Be The Reason – Gross Underestimation Of The Challenge
Many analyzed and found various reasons for the causes of the failures of the most major online only events in India in 2009. However, root causes for those could be anything, but few facts can be drawn from all the cases.

  1. The first is that there was a gross underestimation on the magnitude of the challenge in creating an effective Internet application. In countries like India, where infrastructure problems always remains at ground level, scope of any challenging assignment may be multiplied by the resource scarcity.
  2. The second remains due to the unrealistic assessment of the number of visitors or users of that Internet application. Inaccurate estimation of traffic and not creating a good margin of safety leads to failure.
  3. Major problems happen when decision makers have fancy ideas on technology or get carried away with technology when designing Internet applications for public usage.

It is important to notice that CNN.com slowed down with 9 million hits per hour on 9/11 attacks day in 2001, but remained steady when received 20 million visitors in one hour on Michael Jackson’s death.

What Can Make The Difference – Implementing Right Technologies
Developed by MIT graduate students, Akamai Technologies is one of the first technology providers that addressed load issues by providing services like load balancing and distributed computing platform. Load balancing is a technique that allows optimum utilization of resources and minimizes response time by distributing workload equally across multiple systems. Internet servers can get benefited by using this technology and can handle over load traffic online. Many other better technologies and providers probably exist today to properly manage high traffic online applications.

The recent developments of Internet banking, creating websites with online transactions, conducting tests online, and informative government portals, in India, is a positive trend. However, without considering the fundamental aspects like proper estimation of the size of challenge, realistic assessment, and effective use of technology, the outcomes may be failures.

Putting things in context, Indian Railways though a monopoly has done a fantastic job in creating one of the most successful Internet applications i.e. the online reservation system almost five years back.

The recent failures of Indian first CAT online test, first IGNOU online test, and Election commission website should be learning experiences or how to create high performance Internet applications in India for large number of users.

Suggested Reading:
Teething Problems Cause Under-development of Internet and eCommerce in India
Overpriced Internet And Low Speeds Prevent Broadband Growth In India – 2009
‘Install and Neglect’ Policy of Indian ISPs Hinders Internet Growth – 2009
Overpriced Internet And Low Speeds Prevent Broadband Growth In India – 2008
‘Install and Neglect’ Policy of Indian ISPs Hinders Internet Growth – 2008
Challenges For eCommerce Growth In India

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