How do you handle a million Web users? That was the challenge for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when it unveiled its new FamilySearch genealogy site, <www.familysearch.org> in late 1999.
The church’s Web site planners and their technology partner, IBM, had anticipated first-day traffic of maybe 120,000 visitors. But by 8:30 in the morning on May 24 — half an hour before the official launch — the number of hits put the site on a pace for 300,000 users. By day’s end, 400,000 users had logged on — and an estimated 600,000 more had tried and failed to get through one of the Web’s worst traffic jams ever.
The site managers dealt with the gridlock with the computerized version of crowd control. “When you go to a restaurant, there are only a certain number of seats,” site software developer Justin Lindsey of LavaStorm explained in the computer trade journal InfoWorld. “You have to make sure you take care of the people in the seats and get to the people in line as fast as you can, and that’s exactly what we did…. We’d recognize you as coming from a particular location and put you in pool A or B and say ‘We’ll serve you in 30 minutes and you’ll get 30 minutes on the site.’”
That daily rate of 400,000 users would put FamilySearch 10th in site traffic on the whole Internet, according to Web ratings measured by Media Metrix <www.mediametrix.com>. At a million users (and would-be users) daily, the site would be the number-one most-visited on the Web.
Traffic has since settled down to a still-impressive 200,000 users per day. Upgrades will enable the site to handle about 450,000 users without a logjam.