The Story of NERO's Slashdotting

On Monday, June 27th, NERO appeared on Slashdot. This webpage chronicles the mayhem that ensued. The "slashdot effect" was in full force.

First, NERO appeared in the afternoon (see entry at bottom of screenshot):

Here's the actual story on that day:

As you can see (just look at the first topic!), right away our site nerogame.org was mobbed by curious users, bringing the site to a crawl and making it impossible for most people to download the program, let alone view the site.

However, the effect was so strong that not only was the NERO site slowed to a crawl, but the entire Department of Computer Sciences website at UT Austin was overloaded, making it hard for anyone to get into any of the department's many sites. I don't think this ever happened to the CS department before, and the University clearly noticed. Here is the text of an email they sent to CS:

An inordinate amount of bandwidth has been consumed by nn.cs.utexas.edu 128.83.120.110 - 226GB sent at 35Mbps from 6/27 6:30p to 6/28 8:40p. This host is currently ranked as the number 1 sender out of the 60k hosts on campus. Please take actions immediately to investiage the function of this host, the reason for using large amounts of bandwidth, and name of the responsible party. Host will be filtered by 5pm today if no remediation has taken place.

Funny, they think it's some kind of hacker or troublemaker. I guess they aren't considering that getting a lot of hits might actuall be good news.

Anyway, CS took this threat seriously and cut off our NERO website completely. We had to remove the download link to get it restored. To compensate, we appealed to the world for help:

Thankfully, a number of sites offered us bandwidth, allowing us to offload the downloading away from CS servers, and make NERO available again.

We will never know exactly how many peoplke were able (or even unable) to get NERO from our site on that day, or how many turned to outside mirrors and torrents. However, our access logs show tens of thousands of attemopts coming in over the 27th, 28th, and 29th:

/www_logs/access.2005-Jun-27.gz:10454
/www_logs/access.2005-Jun-28.gz:40855
/www_logs/access.2005-Jun-29.gz:14739

The lesson we learned is that before you end up on Slashdot, outsource any high-bandwidth content to servers that can handle it. Of course, we didn't realize quite the extent to which we would be mobbed from a single story, but apparently it was enough to be #1 out of 60,000 hosts on the UT campus and completely slow down the CS website to a snail's pace.

Note: Visit the official NERO website!