The Leap Second Will Destroy Your Social Media


And we were scared of a measly heat wave.

At midnight Saturday, while the ConEd officials were facing off against its workers, the Earth’s timekeepers (they exist!) held back the world’s atomic time for exactly one second to keep it in line with the planet’s rotation.
The Network TIme Protocol (NTP), a software that numerous Internet services use to keep up with that atomic time, was unable to comprehend the extra second. Crashing ensued in a situation very similar to Y2K, except this time it actually happened.
But this time around, there were a bit more victims than the Netflix, Instagram and Pinterest – all of which are back up and functioning – casualties on Friday night. Andre Tartas of New York Magazine listed the various services we lost (but will not forget) for an hour or so: Reddit, Gizmodo, Gawker, 4Chan (ironic?), LinkedIn, Foursquare, Linux (that’s still used?), Yelp, Meetup and Pirate Bay (also ironic).
That’s too many sites for us to crack who-cares-if-it’s-down jokes about.

But many of the failed situations were Java-related: Reddit posted on Twitter that it was experiencing problems with Java/Cassandra; the Mozilla browser faced similar problems with its Hadoop open source platform; and who knows what happened with Linux.

Luckily, the sites are all back up at the usual processing speeds. We just checked Reddit and found this immediately so we know it’s returned to normal.
This has been a rather strange weekend for the Web. In retrospective, we had a mini-crash of epic proportions. The fact that extreme heat and a second brought down media, a Polaroid filter service and aggregators alike should be a warning sign for the future. And a reminder that the Internet is not omnipotent; it is a sensitive being that we must tread lightly with.
Then again, the break from some of our daily procrastinating tools felt great – except my Instagram feed works fine now and no one has liked my picture of brunch yet.

Archive Highlights