The web servers are maxed out. Web servers serve up webpages... when there are more people trying to use LiveJournal than the web servers can deal with at once, things don't work. We wouldn't be having this problem if one of our web servers, Stan, didn't have a problem that required it being returned to the manufacturer.
This is actually a different problem than the problem we had with the database server, which processes the database queries that make LiveJournal work. We were having database problems until we upgraded Cartman, our current database server. Cartman might seem like a fat bastard, but respect his authoritah... he'll do quite well until we get the much faster, more powerful, and very upgradable Alpha server, which should last us a long time. Cartman will then become the new LiveJournal image server, which will give members a place to put all their photos for their journal.
Now it's time for the good news and bad news...
Good News! :
I heard from the manufacturer today... Stan is ready and is on his way to Seattle!
Bad News! :
Brad isn't in Seattle... he's in Portland on a well deserved Spring Break. Hold tight for a few days until he gets back and has a chance to install Stan.
Good News! :
LiveJournal is growing like crazy! We are growing in size about 30% every month, infact. That is 50% faster than Blogger or other comparable journal sites are growing. Yesterday set new records, with 819 new members in a single day. Based on what I know right now, it seems likely we will end the month with nearly 90,000 users, easily surpassing the very ambitious goal I set three months ago. Frankly, we have hardly had to promote LiveJournal at all. Almost all the growth we have had has been because of word-of-mouth, which is pretty incredible.
Bad News! :
LiveJournal is growing like crazy! That means about 100% growth every three months... which means that within three months, we will not only need the remaining few thousand dollars to buy the new Alpha database server, we will probably need a several thousand more dollars to literally double the number of webservers we have... and in six months, we will very likely need double the number of webservers we will need within three months. Note that this doesn't include other increased costs we might have for more bandwidth, hardware upgrades, repairs, or higher colocation fees for our servers.
Does anyone remember when I first mentioned the idea of LiveJournal having 85,000 users several months back? Lots of people were shocked at the idea of LiveJournal growing so much. I'm telling you now, however, that short of pulling the plug on new users or basically making the servers not work, there is no way that we can resist this kind of fast growth. Based on current growth rates, ninety thousand users at the end of March could become as many as two hundred thousand users at the end of June. Sooner or later, we can expect growth to level off somewhat, but that hasn't happened yet. We have something great here, and we're giving it away for free.
That's a good thing, but it's also a major concern... because running LiveJournal isn't free.
Lots of you have given a lot back to LiveJournal because you love it too. Several of you have donated for a yearly membership, bought extra memberships for friends... and when LiveJournal asked for money for the Alpha server, you donated once again. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that, but I believe it's kind of wrong in a way, too. Around November of last year, 2.6% of LiveJournal users were members. That stat has gone down to 2%. What that means is that there are a lot of new users, and many of them have yet to pay their share of the cost of running LiveJournal. In order to get many of these new users to become members, we need to do a better job of getting the word out that we need their help and their support... and that a LiveJournal membership is a really nice thing to have.
Ultimately, LiveJournal's success cannot and should not rest on the backs of just a handful of developers or on a few dozen volunteers... and the costs of running LiveJournal shouldn't be paid by the same people who have already given us so much. If we want LiveJournal to really succeed, we have to figure out ways to share the burden.
I'll be talking more about all that after Brad gets Stan installed and everything is hunky dory again, but just be aware of the reality... once we get Stan installed, we will still be less than one webserver's capacity away from LiveJournal not working the way we would all like. (In other words, the way it's working now.) We will also be several thousand dollars away from purchasing the Alpha server, which is our next priority and is what we will need to avoid having any more problems like we had recently with the database server.
Now is a great time for all of you who haven't become members yet to consider becoming one. I promise you that if you become a member, I will do everything in my power to make sure that you get your money's worth. LiveJournal is going to get a lot better before the year is out, and you'll be able to take full advantage of all of our upcoming features, such as the image server. Above all, you'll be able to say that you did your part to help out. Meanwhile, we'll do our part to make sure the benefits of your membership are great and that the burden is lighter on everyone.