BBC website crash leaves millions without on-demand, news

Summary:Millions were left without access to the U.K.'s largest website after a data center failure caused the site to buckle during Wednesday's peak television watching time.

The BBC's website crashed late on Wednesday evening, but the broadcaster has yet to work out exactly what happened and why.

During television prime-time, the entire BBC website crashed with an "internal error," leaving hundreds of millions without access to BBC News, or its on-demand television service, BBC iPlayer. 

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BBC website crashed. Credit: Twitter.

At around 8:10 p.m. BST, the website failed to load and the entire online network was inaccessible 15 minutes later.

Many sections of the site were restored around an hour later, but its front page remained problematic over the following hour. 

The publicly funded broadcaster --- the largest of its kind in the world --- admitted there was a "major technical issue" caused by a failure of the traffic managers in both of the BBC's datacenters.

The BBC's Richard Cooper explained in a blog post --- in an feat of transparency rarely seen by a company --- that its traffic managers are "critical" to its infrastructure and handle all requests to the site.

For a high-traffic site, which is in the top 50 sites worldwide and the top 5 in the U.K. according to Alexa rankings, Cooper said they are "designed to be highly reliable" and have "served us very well to date."

Cooper said the broadcaster will continue to investigate the root cause of the incident, and apologised for the inconvenience caused. More updates will be shared in the coming days.

As expected, many took to Twitter to complain in true passive aggressive 'English style'. In referring to the imminent 2012 London Olympic Games in just over two weeks time, BBC broadcaster Jon Kay said:

The BBC said the last major outage was in March and also lasted about an hour. 

Just before yesterday's crashed, throughout the day bugs had appeared on the website --- including its "most read" section --- which pulled in content from a month ago. It was like stepping back in time by a month; very peculiar --- though it's not clear if the two are linked. 

In February, BBC iPlayer saw 2.3 million daily users, according to the broadcaster, giving some indication of how many people may have been affected by yesterday's outage.

Updated at 12:20 p.m. BST: with additional details from the BBC.

Topics: Outage, IT Priorities

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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