Published on November 19th, 2009 | by Darren Byrne14
How Zac Efron Killed Culch.ie
Firstly, I’d like to apologise for Culch.ie’s downtime yesterday evening. It was a strange one – not the usual Server Timeout, Bad Gateway, WordPress Error, DNS lookup problem or any of the other many impossible-to-decipher reasons for a website to fail. In fact, we know exactly why the site was down. Zac Efron killed it!!!
Fine, he may not have logged in, targeted us and set about taking down all of our hard work, but it’s still his fault.
Just after 5pm yesterday evening, the site began to display an error where neither the main site nor the admin side of the site could be accessed. I bounded over to Twitter ask asked @Blacknight what was the issue. Blacknight is the hosting provider for Culch.ie and a number of other sites I administrate. They immediately came back to me:
Now, that seemed fair enough. I didn’t know what image it was, but it was logical that if a few hundred people were linking in to the site at one time, there might be problems. But what did all of this have to do with Zac Efron? Then Blacknight gave me some more info:
Hmmm…I knew what it was. It was an old post of mine from April, Movie News which included a bit about the teen heartthrob. Still, I thought I could delete the image and problem would be solved. No such luck, the irritatingly handsome brat was too smart for me.
That was the point at which they lost me. I didn’t know I had any concurrent connections on my vhost to begin with, never mind that they could be maxed out. Had I known this I would have looked after them better, taken them for walks, read to them, given them nice holidays in sunny climes. But Blacknight immediately came back with a reassuring tweet:
Dónal wasn’t wrong – if you search for Zac Efron on Google Images, ours is the first image you’ll get (well, it was prior to its deletion).
Further investigation revealed that it was a Facebook application that was linking to the image. It wasn’t long before Blacknight had Culch.ie back in working order and they even emailed me will a full explanation as to what went wrong. Paul came back to me first:
Basically someone who admins a facebook app took the picture you had and did what we call “hot linked” to it from the facebook app. The facebook app in question has around 50k users and they must have all been seeing the image when using the app.
To put it in context for you:
# grep ZacEfron002.jpg -c access_log
Yep, he lost me again there, but an explanation followed:
This command counts the number of times ZacEfron002.jpg appeared in your logs in the last few hours. Yes that figure is 536k image views. This is a HUGE amount of traffic for any website to have in 1 day let alone 1 image on your website.
You read that correctly – over half a million hits.
We contacted Facebook and the App’s developer and within an hour or two the traffic started to die off and your site was back online.
FYI it was an online dating app which seemingly is a “hot topic” on the internet right now.
So, from what I gather, there’s some large sweaty guy out there, posing as the Hollywood star in order to lure unsuspecting women (or men, perhaps) using our image of Zac Efron. I think I need a shower.
Niall further clarified the issue earlier today:
It’s fairly common unfortunately, and we often see it with some of the licensed images we use on the various blogs. Often there’s easy ways around it such as http://www.mark8t.com/2009/02/07/hotlink-prevention-how-to-stop-people-from-linking-to-your-images/
However, the problem in this case was the sheer bulk of hits to the image as it was used on a fairly active facebook app. Your site on the server has a connection limit of about 100 at a time, which normally you’ll come nowhere close to. The reason for the 503 [error] last night was that there was hundreds of simultaneous connections, so the server was basically saying enough is enough.
Okay, I won’t pretend to understand all the ins and outs of it, but I just want to thank Blacknight for sorting out our problem so quickly and for being a generally reliable host.
As for that darn Zac Efron – let this be the last time he gets mentioned on Culch.ie. The young whippersnapper.