The incidence of an effect called the Slashdot Effect has been observed
on various websites, prompting study to discern the cause of this relatively
new phenomena. The Slashdot Effect seems to emulate server failure in
certain other websites, apparently dependent upon distances between
objects on the internet and their relative placement.
The evidence comes from observations of an effect known as gravitational
lensing [see fig 1.]. A gravitational lens is an extraordinary internet
phenomenon which is really made up of two separate objects. The necessary
parts of a gravitational lens are (1) a website object called the SOURCE,
and (2) a massive linking object called the LENS.
[fig 1.] Example of an object being distorted by a lens.
An object as massive and compact as Slashdot.org can act as a crude
lens, producing a distorted, magnified image (or even many images) of
any background website server abnormalities that lies behind it. Such
an object does so by bending the paths of binary and other data transmission
[see fig 2.]. So if Slashdot.org sits in the line of linking between
a reader and some distant website, it will bend the data from the object
so that it is observable as a website with a bogged server.
[Fig 2.] The gravitational lens in action,
with Slashdot.org serving as the lens.
The gravitational lensing phenomena was predicted by Albert Einstein
in 1915; it is a direct result of his general theory of relativity.
It was confirmed by the British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington in 1919,
when information from a distant source was confirmed to be erroneous
after transmission through a dense relative on his mother's side.
To test the Slashdot Effect, webonomers need to measure distances to
other websites. One method for gauging distance is to observe the apparent
server of a site. If one site is four times slower to load than an otherwise
comparable site, then it can be estimated to be twice as far away. This
expectation has now been tested over the whole of the visible range
of the Internet However, some critics of the theory have pointed out
that a site that appears to be smaller and slower to load might not
actually be more distant.
[Fig 3.] Example of a webserver undergoing data distortion.
During the past decade, webonomers have discovered about two dozen
gravitational lenses. The object behind the lens is always found to
have a slower server than the lens itself, confirming the qualitative
prediction of the Slashdot Effect.
In the near future, we expect new experiments to provide a better understanding
of the Slashdot Effect. New measurements of the expansion rate of the
Internet and the ages of websites are beginning to confirm that news
portals such as Slashdot.org may allow us to see how the mass of the
Internet affects the distortion of server data, which in turn influences
our observations of distant websites.