CNET News: Is Internet Reliable?

Some of the best debates are between co-workers going at it, and CNET had enough foresight to chronicle a pretty good one between CNET News’ Tom Krazit and Declan McCullagh about whether the Internet can “be considered a reliable source of information when a true crisis emerges.”

The topic is quite timely, considering the effect Michael Jackson’s death had all over the World Wide Web.

Among the highlights:


I think it’s a little unfair to say the Internet “buckles in times of crisis.” Sure, a few Web sites—Google News, the Los Angeles Times, TMZ, Yahoo, MSNBC—had slowdowns or outages. (That list includes our own CNET and CBS Interactive sites, which experienced serious problems for about half an hour.)

Some news Web sites slowing down or becoming unreachable for 30 minutes is not the same thing as the Internet “buckling.” If an earthquake were to take out the trans-Pacific cable landings in California’s Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and Grover Beach, if car bombs knocked out MAE East and MAE West, and if a hurricane laid low the cable landings in Long Island and New Jersey, that might—might!—qualify.


The more people who demand the service provided by an information Web site, the harder it gets for that site to provide that information. CNN/MSNBC/et al don’t buckle when millions of people change the channel to watch O.J. meander down a Los Angeles freeway or the opening salvos of the Iraq War.

Even Google was unable to handle the load. And if Google can’t, nobody can. This is a serious problem for online businesses, especially as people continue to come online in emerging economies and with mobile devices.