August 7, 2012

A Slip Of The Scissors Sends Wikipedia To Its Knees

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

No matter how technologically advanced a site or service may be, it still has to run via power and connected cables. Therefore, it was a bit of a surprise when it was announced that as Wikipedia went down yesterday, it wasn´t at the hands of nefarious hackers or system overload as millions flocked to the site to look up former Olympians: Wikipedia was brought to its knees thanks to a small accident and two cut cables.

Users began to notice early Monday morning that they´re queries to the popular crowd-based tome of knowledge were falling on deaf pages. Shortly thereafter, a status page for the entire Wikimedia network revealed there were multiple issues across the network. Many services, such as the Wikipedia API, images and media and even their payment service were knocked offline. The Verge posted an “unverified statement posted in the site´s IRC channel” which read: “Wikipedia is currently down due to networking issues. No ETA is known at the moment. If you want to browse the wiki, please try other tools such as and GoogleCache.”

Shortly after this message was posted, a message from @wikimediadc was posted on Twitter, saying they´d located the source of the problem to the Tampa data center.

“Whilst #Wikipedia servers are down in Tampa due to network issues you can still use tools such as and Google Tools.”

Nearly an hour after the first reports about the outage came flooding in, the majority of the site was up and running again as the cut fiber cords were replaced.

"Things appear to have been patched up, services are being brought back and things are getting to OK now," said David Gerard, a UK spokesperson for the Wikimedia foundation, speaking to the BBC.

"Someone cut the cables going to the Tampa, Florida data centre. We have two big [centres], one in Florida and one in Virginia, and some network proxies in Amsterdam. Everyone in that data centre was affected!"

Though the API was directly affected as a result of these cut fiber cables, the mobile site appeared to remain unaffected throughout the outage, according to the BBC.

Gerard told the BBC he wasn´t yet sure who or what caused the cut, or where the cut occurred, though because of some recent financial struggles, he joked that some of the site relied on “gaffer tape and string.”

The question of donations and finances was frequently mentioned on social media sites Facebook and Twitter during the outage. Part of Wikipedia´s error message included a plea for donations, saying the Wikimedia foundation relied on these gifts to fund their operations.

"The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit organization which hosts some of the most popular sites on the internet," the message read in the UK.

"It has a constant need to purchase new hardware. If you would like to help, please donate."

Though the site relies heavily on donations, it is incredibly reliable. As such, moments of downtime such as the one experienced today are rare for the website, with the single exception when the site intentionally went “dark” in protests of the PIPA and SOPA bills in the U.S.