Mar 24, 2010

Wikipedia Down? Say It Ain't So!

Having some quick questions regarding abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld, I surfed over to Wikipedia for a brief refresher. Unfortunately, for the past 45 minutes I have been unable to access this page or, for that matter, any page on Wikipedia. Luckily for me there exists an excellent page on this radical abolitionist at Ohio History Central.

As an academic I find the site to be quite useful for preliminary research into a topic, and some pages have excellent bibliographies. However, Wikipedia is rife with vandalism and misinformation, and some pages read as though they were composed by an eight-year-old immigrant. I caution every college class I teach not to trust Wikipedia as a definitive source, and never to cite the site, Yet every semester more than a handful of students dutifully provide citations to Wikipedia pages in their papers.

Yet the stability of the site and its ability to deliver content have never been issues for me. I am thus puzzled at what appears to be a significant outage at Wikipedia, and I trust that the Wiki-techs will fix the problem in short order.

Update, 1:53 PM EST:

We are now into Hour Two of the Great Wikipedia Meltdown, and the front page of the site is accessible:

However, none of the graphics load, all the links are dead, and every page I try to visit returns an error message. This is obviously a larger issue than insufficient server capabilities, as I would be getting intermittent access to the site.

As it stands, Wikipedia is momentarily dead, and I have yet to see word of this in the blogosphere.

Update, 2:01 PM:

The social networking news website Mashable is the first major site to report the Great Wikipedia Meltdown. Like me, everyone on the site is in the dark, though the site reports a few users can still access Wikipedia.

Update, 2:05PM EST:

The social networking site Twitter has quite a few tweets about Wikipedia crashing. The site is till down on my end, reverting back to the aforementioned Red X version with dead links.

Update, 2:11 PM EST:

The Huffington Post located a Wikipedia Tweet that offered the following explanation for the prolonged Wikipedia outage:
Due to an overheating problem in our European data center many of our servers turned off to protect themselves. As this impacted all Wikipedia and other projects access from European users, we were forced to move all user traffic to our Florida cluster, for which we have a standard quick failover procedure in place, that changes our DNS entries.

However, shortly after we did this failover switch, it turned out that this failover mechanism was now broken, causing the DNS resolution of Wikimedia sites to stop working globally. This problem was quickly resolved, but unfortunately it may take up to an hour before access is restored for everyone, due to caching effects.
On my end the outage has been at least 90 minutes, though it may have been longer than this.

Update, 2:18 PM EST:

On a related note, the Wikipedia outage has been a boon for my website:

In the past hour this website's traffic zoomed from about 50 readers to over 1200, and at the time of this post the site had over 500 people from around the world reading this post. Too bad I do not participate in any advertising programs that raise fees based on traffic, though I strongly encourage all new site vistors to use the Amazon links on the right sidebar and make purchases.


Update, 2:31 PM EST:

Wikipedia is still down on my end (almost two hours now), and the blogosphere is beginning to reflect that this is not just an English language problem for the technicians at Wikipedia. The crash appears to be global in nature and involves many Wikipedia language sites. Conspiracy theorists are starting to claim that this is a hacker-based DNS attack on Wikipedia, but there appears to be no evidence yet for such a claim.

Update, 2:41 PM EST:

WPTV is the first traditional media outlet to report the Wikipedia outage, but they have no more information than anyone else.

Update, 2:47 PM EST:

Wikipedia is still down here in Toledo, OH, and now the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph suggests that the Wikipedia outage may be related to a server cooling failure. The paper provides no evidence for the claim, so this appears to be just speculative reporting at the moment.

Update, 3:01 PM ETS:

I can now access (albeit slowly) individual Wikipedia pages, but images show up blank with the dreaded Red X. This suggests that Wikipedia Commons and/or Wikimedia continue to be offline.

Update, 3:31 PM EST:

I am still experiencing intermittent outages on Wikipedia, though about half of my attempts to connect to a page fail. There are still no images available on the site, and the formatting is out of kilter. So far few media sites have picked up this story, though CNN's science and tech blog reported the news that Wikipedia is offline.

Oh, and to the naysayers: approximately 80 percent of Google's traffic winds up at Wikipedia, and most of Wikipedia's pages wind up in the top 10 on Google searches. While you may be chuckling at geeks like me, the many millions of daily Wikipedia visitors are quite perturbed.

Update, 4:06 PM EST:

We are now into Hour Four of the Great Wikipedia Meltdown, and all websites related to the Wikimedia Foundation are down on my end:

Left: all Wikimedia sites down at 4:00 PM EST

I spent a few minutes trying out all Wikimedia sites, and none of them work. Wikipedia's Twitter page offers a cheery spin, claiming that "we're back," but as far as I can tell Wikipedia is DOA for now. The Twitter page did add that "there still may be some glitches as the data center in Amsterdam is still overheated."

Glitches=site crash. Gotcha!

Update, 4:31 PM EST:

Wikipedia pages once again load without pictures on about half of my attempts to connect with the site, and DNS errors pop up on the other half of my clicks. Most of the other Wikimedia sites are still down on my end. Interestingly, a number of Facebook posters put forth the idea that China is behind the Wikipedia crash, but I have difficulty buying the latest conspiracy theory behind the outage.

This reminds me of a student in one of my classes two years ago who insisted that the presence of poisonous chemicals on toys imported from China was not accidental, but rather a deliberate plot by the Chinese government to slowly kill off U.S. citizens.

There is paranoid, and then there is downright loony, and I think the Chinese are too busy producing inexpensive consumer products and repressing their own citizens to worry about Wikipedia.

Update, 5:03 PM EST:

Most Wikimedia sites now load properly on the first try, though load speed is definitely on the slow side. I received DNS errors on Wikiquote and Wikibooks twice, and I loaded a few Wikipedia pages with Red Xs instead of images, but the crash seems to be over. Total outage time seems to be in the 4-1/2 hour range in this region.


Anonymous said...

Nothing for me, either.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia is dead in California, out for hours!!!

james b said...

Whaere's mah Wiki?

Carrie said...

Two hours, no Wikipedia in PA!

Steve Forster said...

No Wikipedia in St. Louis, either.

Anonymous said...

Due, go outside, cuz it's sunny and everything. LOL!

Anonymous said...

No Wikipedia and I need to finish my reserach paper!!! HELP ME!!!

historymike said...


Grab a book and some academic articles. You shouldn't even be using Wikipedia for your research paper, at least not as a cited source. It's fine to start there, but anyone who cites or quotes Wikipedia in a research paper needs a wakeup call.

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