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YouTube Outage

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At my place of work we have a number of shadow Web servers that sometimes double as staging servers when we want to roll out new projects. The thing is that for any change, no matter how large or small, the proper approach is to install and inspect on test servers, followed by the staging servers and finally, when everything is good and ready, a scheduled rollout on the production servers.

The downside is that following proper procedures take just too darn long, specially when you have the production Web servers ready and willing right on your desktop. I admit to shunting the proper procedure on occasion and going right into the production servers. The justification being that only in production one can truly gauge the results of a change and if there are problems, then we can just fix it in real time.

What we don't realize is that this kind of carelessness could turn off or at least irritate viewers who happen to be browsing the site at the exact moment that new changes and potential bugs are being rolled out. But I have the sneaky suspicion that many sites, even the popular ones, are guilty of this fault on many an occasion.

Take YouTube (owned by Google) as an example. This site is a classic example of frequent quick rollouts. On many occasions I have run across broken CSS, missing images, and sudden changes while viewing the site.

Last night while viewing a classic Twilight Zone episode (The Odyssey of Flight 33), the pages suddenly started to exhibit behavior indicative of malformed or missing style sheets. Then videos stopped playing and were replaced by an error message as shown in the below screen capture. Obviously YouTube was in the midst of a rollout and things weren't going quite as planned.

YouTube Outage

Based on the error message, I tried to update my browser's Flash plug-in, but the Adobe site (where Flash player can be downloaded from) was strangely out of reach. I suspect the error message had sent masses of people to the Adobe site causing an overload and an eventual outage of that site.

In the end, It turned out that there was nothing wrong with my Flash plug-in and YouTube was eventually restored and videos began to play normally again. The error message was likely triggered by an unrelated glitch arising from a rollout of some new feature.

Eventually I finished watching the episode and I also learned something else besides the fact that careless website rollouts lead to user irritation, the fact that the New York JFK airport was once known as the Idlewild airport.


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