Why can’t you access a website if there’s too much traffic? How does that work?

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Why can’t you access a website if there’s too much traffic? How does that work?

In: Technology

Well, can you move onto a highway that is already filled to capacity with other traffic participants?

Just like you have limited bandwidth available to perform up- and downloads, every site’s webserver has limited bandwidth available to perform up- and downloads. A sudden unexpected traffic spike will result in *nobody* being able to get enough data from the server to do anything useful. The other likely scenario is that some form of load-balancing or DDOS-protection service used by the website detects the traffic spike and immediately just shuts down access – “Something fishy is going on here – *nobody* is getting in!”.

Imagine you’re at a crowded bar or restaurant counter. There’s one bartender or other service type person, but dozens or hundreds of patrons, each shouting their order and expecting prompt service.

Like that, but digital.

As with bars and restaurants, the answers are “more servers” and “more efficient processes,” which is how enormous sites like Google or Facebook seldom seem to have these problems (until they do).

Accessing a website is just your computer asking another computer to send it content: “hey computer at reddit.com, send me the data of your frontpage”.

That computer, much like yours, does not have infinite speed; it takes some time to figure out what data to send you (if the webpage is tailored to each user, say the facebook frontpage when you’re logged on), and sending it you.

If there’s too many computers asking for data, it just can’t keep up.