Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Happens When a Social Site Goes Down?...

They have all done it - crashed.  It seems to be part of the evolutionary stage we are in the development of the Internet.  But, what happens, if anything, psychologically to people when their favorite site crashes?  Do we know??

If you have seen the movie Social Network which just came out this weekend, there is a scene in the movie where the obsessive-compulsive Mark Zuckerberg co-founder of Facebook is telling his partner Eduardo Saverin that they need more servers.  He explains that a crash is a TERRIBLE thing for a website for which people depend on their communications.  He claims Facebook is unlike the other services in that they have never crashed and never will crash.  Yet Facebook has crashed.

Here are the facts.  
Today, 4Square a very popular site used for locating your friends when you are out on the town crashed for at least nine hours.  About 11 days ago Facebook crashed when a third party networking provider brought it down.  In 2007, RIM, manufacturers of the famous and widely used Blackberry phone crashed.  This prevented Blackberry users much vaunted instant email from working for most of the day.  Apparently, they had instituted a new programming code without sufficient testing.  In May of 2008 Twitter's servers crashed not just once but several times.  Here is a graph that was posted of the number of times it crashed that month:

There should be no spikes (May 21only) http://www.businessinsider.com/2008/5/twitter-explains-constant-twitter-outages-on-twitter

We shall continue the list.  In June of 2009, after word spread of the death of Michael Jackson so many people tried to access Google that it crashed.

Internet Addiction?

Some psychologists are claiming that, "obsessive internet use is a public health problem, which is so serious it should be officially recognised as a clinical disorder."  Can someone become addicted to the Internet?  We are sure they can.  People can become addicted to anything.  So there must be some who are addicted to it and the question is if the Internet crashed what would it do to them psychologically.  You can ask yourself this question as well.  What if the Internet crashed for you?  For how long would you tolerate it?  

There are subsets to this addiction of course.  There is ebay addiction.  There is cybersex and cyberporn addiction.  There are addictions to online gaming.  According to an article from 2008 here are the symptoms of someone who is addicted.  We assume this speaks of all addictions, but they apply it to the Internet in this case. 
They forget to eat and sleep; they need more advanced technology or more hours online as they develop 'resistance' to the pleasure given by their current system; if they are deprived of their computer, they experience genuine withdrawal symptoms; And in common with other addictions, the victims also begin to have more arguments, to suffer fatigue, to get lower marks in tests and to feel isolated from society.
We have searched for an answer to a deeper question but to little avail.  The question is as the Internet becomes more and more important in people's lives, in the lives of institutions and governments, what would happen if it crashed?  Even Google alone serving approximately 75% of the world's search traffic would be considered now, a critical infrastructure, as the telephone was in the 1950s and 1960s.  Kevin Kelly has said that the Internet is the most reliable machine ever built by man in that it has never stopped working as a whole.  Indeed, it was designed to do that by DARPA, who began it in the early 1960s.

Could the internet be made to crash worldwide by malicious individuals or governments?  There is a debate about this pro and con.  Of course if the electrical grid goes down then the Internet goes with it.  

But suppose it does come down, how would you cope?  Would it bother you at all?  Vote on this poll.  We would love to know.

1 comment:

Jeremiah Bilas said...

Imagine Amazon crashing on black friday. I think that would ruin my entire winter holiday season, seriously.