Chinese holiday bookings bring down hosting site

Originally thought to be a denial-of-service attack, a high number of train-ticket bookings brought down Web-hosting site GitHub as millions of requests were sent through online booking apps.
Written by Liu Jiayi, Contributor

Web-hosting site GitHub was thought to have suffered a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on January 15, but it was later determined that the site was brought down by an overwhelming number of requests from Chinese users looking to book tickets home for the Lunar New Year.

The backend system of 12306 Booking Helper, an online ticket-booking app in China, is hosted by GitHub. It had jammed GitHub's server with a surging number of requests. The app developer switched its service to a Chinese cloud computing platform, Sina App Engine, to avoid further malfunctions, according to the Engine's Weibo.

As the Chinese New Year approaches, millions of workers across China are scurrying to buy a train ticket home to spend the holiday with their families. To avoid days-long ordeal of waiting for a ticket at the train station, or having to pay high prices to scalpers, many choose to purchase their seats online at the official booking Web site, 12306.cn. But the competition--for a ticket--is fierce.

Last year, apps specially developed to constantly refresh available seats and monitor the 12306.cn site attracted the attention of the public. This year, the number of such apps has exploded, with some claiming to be able to increase successful ticket booking rates by 10 times, according to a local report.

Although the booking apps could be good news for the ticket-hungry public, for workers who are unable to frequently access a computer--let alone install apps--their hope of snatching a ticket home is getting dimmer.

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