October 21, 2005  


Symmetry's Birthday Surprise

By David Harris

When the tenth issue of symmetry magazine came out on October 12, 2005, the magazine’s Web server crashed unexpectedly. The reason became instantly obvious when looking at the server statistics—symmetry had been ‘slashdotted’.

Well-known to tech-savvy Web users, slashdot.org highlights sites of interest around the Web, causing tens of thousands of devoted readers to check out the recommendations. And so, when the gallery of particle physics art from the latest symmetry was linked to the front page of slashdot, our server could not initially handle the demand since it was set to accept only 175 simultaneous connections—usually more than enough. Within minutes, the Web server was reconfigured and ready to handle the flow of readers from slashdot. And flow they did, with nearly 30,000 unique visitors in the first four hours after appearing on slashdot. Servers regularly crash when they are unexpectedly bombarded like this; the phenomenon is even known as the slashdot effect.

The chart below shows the number of visitors per day through the start of October. It peaks at nearly 30,000 on October 12, with another 20,000 visitors on the following day. Traffic dropped off as the story left slashdot’s front page but residual traffic is still higher than earlier in the month.

If there is any good reason for a web server to crash, it is because of sudden great interest, and the symmetry team found it a welcome way to celebrate one year of publishing the magazine.








The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Friday October 21, 2005 by Chip Dalby