MySpace: A Place for Errors

Posted on January 17, 2007

Baseline, a ZDNet website, has an interesting article by David Carr explaining how MySpace attempts to solve its scalability issues. Everyone knows that MySpace has grown incredibility quickly. This rapid growth has been very difficult to manage -- especially since the site was never built for this kind of traffic from the start. The article says that today MySpace "seems to be perpetually overloaded" and users often run into errors.

In November, MySpace, for the first time, surpassed even Yahoo in the number of Web pages visited by U.S. Internet users, according to comScore Media Metrix, which recorded 38.7 billion page views for MySpace as opposed to 38.05 billion for Yahoo.

The bad news is that MySpace reached this point so fast, just three years after its official launch in November 2003, that it has been forced to address problems of extreme scalability that only a few other organizations have had to tackle.

The result has been periodic overloads on MySpace's Web servers and database, with MySpace users frequently seeing a Web page headlined "Unexpected Error" and other pages that apologize for various functions of the Web site being offline for maintenance. And that's why Drew and other MySpace members who can't send or view messages, update their profiles or perform other routine tasks pepper MySpace forums with complaints.

These days, MySpace seems to be perpetually overloaded, according to Shawn White, director of outside operations for the Keynote Systems performance monitoring service. "It's not uncommon, on any particular day, to see 20% errors logging into the MySpace site, and we've seen it as high as 30% or even 40% from some locations," he says. "Compare that to what you would expect from Yahoo or, or other sites that are used for commercial purposes, and it would be unacceptable." On an average day, he sees something more like a 1% error rate from other major Web sites.

The most amazing aspect of MySpace is that the site continues to thrive despite these frequent errors that annoy users.

Commenting on the Baseline story Tim Anderson calls MySpace's growth a "ragged evolution, and sounds more like a desperate attempt to keep pace than smooth upscaling." Larry Dignan has a post discussing the article called, "MySpace: IT on a wing and a Microsoft prayer." It's a Microsoft prayer because most of the technologies MySpace is using are Microsoft products. Dignan says, "MySpace's site is running on Windows 2003 for servers, .Net as a platform and SQL Server 2005."

MySpace doesn't have the most attractive profiles and they have grown too fast to be able implement an organized growth plan but somehow the site is still expanding.

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