Just as the internet was recovering from the slow down caused by the slammer worm, some Web sites belonging to Super Bowl advertisers started to fumble. Cadillac.com didn't have the horsepower to keep up with the demand generated by its pre half-time advertisement and the thehulk.com lacked the muscle to service to service the web surfers who wanted to check out the upcoming movie.
Keynote Systems (www.keynote.com), which continuously monitors Internet performance, found that sites operated by Internet advertisers were not able to tackle the demand placed on them by football fans that were apparently watching the game and surfing the web at the same time.
Cadillac's Web site (www.cadillac.com) experienced "significant problems
around halftime of the game," according Arnold Waldstein, Vice President of Marketing for Keynote.
"Availability, which had been 100% prior to the game, dropped to as low as 83% and response time tripled to more than six seconds for those users who were able to get through." The Hulk (www.thehulk.com) wasn't strong enough to handle the load either.
The site's availability, according to Keynote "dropped below 90% and one point and averaged less than 95%," causing web surfers to wait an average of 20 seconds, assuming that they could get through at all. Prior to the Super Bowl, that site was available 99% of the time with a response time of 2.5 seconds.
The delays demonstrate a critical limitation of the Internet as a mass medium. Web sites that work just fine during most of the time can crumble when faced with a peak demand. Unlike TV and radio web stations which can broadcast to a virtually infinite sized audience, Web sites can slow down or even crash when faced with an overwhelming demand.
This is hardly the first time that a Web site experienced problems when faced with a peak load. Victoria Secret's bandwidth was a bit too flimsy to handle the millions of people that visited the site during its first web-cast fashion show, though they were able to cover the demand the second time around. Many of the news sites had problems in the immediate aftermath of September 11th, though most were able to quickly recover once officials realized what they were facing.
"Poor performance at some sites raises questions about whether corporations are doing proper load-testing to insure they can handle spikes following tremendous exposure during a major media event and whether or not they are doing a satisfactory job of monitoring performance to assure an optimal customer experience," according to the Keynote spokesperson.
Federal Express (www.fedex.com), Levi Strauss (www.levi.com), McDonalds (www.mcdonalds.com), Sony (www.sony.com) and Sony Pictures (www.sonypictures.com) scored well during the game, achieving "100%
availability" according to Keynote.
A syndicated technology columnist for nearly two decades, Larry Magid serves as on air Technology Analyst for CBS Radio News. His technology reports can be heard several times a week on the CBS Radio Network. Magid is the author of several books including "The Little PC Book."
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By Larry Magid