The Perimeter Institude hit by the Slashdot effect


The Slashdot effect is what happens to a web site when it is referenced on Slashdot. Many web sites are unable to handle the load correctly, as the very large readership of Slashdot tries to connect to the linked site.

I thought that the Slashdot effect was more or less a thing of the past, but this just happened to the Perimeter Institute (PI), following the publication of a post entitled “Lectures on the Frontier of Physics”. Currently, the PI web site only displays the following:

Thank you for visiting Perimeter Institute.

The website is under heavy load at present due to the popularity of announcements regarding the appointment of Neil Turok as Executive Director of PI, as well as awareness of PI’s online public lecture series – as reported on Slashdot and other sources.

Please visit again when traffic is back to normal.

Thank you.

Hopefully, traffic will soon return to normal, because the agenda looked quite promising. The Slashdot story cites:

Presentations include Neil Turok’s ‘What Banged?,’ John Ellis with ‘The Large Hadron Collider,’ Nima Arkani-Hamed with ‘Fundamental Physics in 2010,’ Paul Steinhardt with ‘Impossible Crystals,’ Edward Witten with ‘The Quest for Supersymmetry,’ Seth Lloyd with ‘Programming the Universe,’ Anton Zeilinger with ‘From Einstein to Quantum Information,’ Raymond Laflamme with ‘Harnessing the Quantum World,’ and many other talks. The presentations feature a split-screen presentation with the guest speaker in one frame and their full-frame graphics in the other.

Can we improve HTTP?

This kind of experience is a reminder that HTTP is a really simple protocol, one where no attempt whatsoever is made to offer some kind of proximity caching. I wonder if it’s possible to retrofit P2P proximity caching technologies into the more bare-bones HTTP? Does anybody know of any such research? The idea, obviously, would be to have nodes that are closer to the client act as content proxies, thereby offloading the original server.

The problem, of course, is that much of the content on the Internet is dynamic and hard to cache. That’s the reason it’s an interesting question🙂

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