Want To Get Attention? Deny Geeks Their Internets

July 24, 2007

Today, a huge power outage in downtown San Francisco made something go really wrong with a datacenter (hosting company) based in downtown San Francisco. Several big sites (Technorati, LiveJournal, TypePad, RedEnvelope, Craigslist, Yelp, Netflix – even Second Life) went down, mostly hosted at 365 Main. It’s located in the heart of the “South of Market” area.

Inevitably, many are wondering why this professional outfit’s backup generators didn’t go on. Neomeme makes the good observation that the Internet is really quite fragile.

Personally, I think this is a good wake-up call. I remember the insane California power outages back in 2000, that while working at a technology company meant some days we just went home early, because what can you do with a computer when there’s no electricity?

So what happens when the next, inevitable, massive earthquake hits the Bay Area and cuts off power and everything else? Based on Katrina, we may very well be left out to dry, slowly withering away as our iPods and MacBooks lose their charges, or getting the shakes because of no Internet access to LOLcats. Or what if a terrorist (God forbid) decides to set off a nuke in Silicon Valley, because there are so many important companies here? Instant economic doomsday.

There’s a bit of annoyance in this thought, because the Internet was developed partly for the purpose of surviving a nuclear attack. While the Internet would obviously still live on if disaster struck the Bay Area, it still seems a bit odd that so many companies think it’s essential to have all their employees physically located in close proximity. Even if you have your site on a server in Kansas, if all your employees live in San Francisco when the big one hits, it’s the same story. There’s something to be said for telecommuting even to the point of locating employees in different states.

Yeah, I can be such a pessimist. Try shutting off the Internet for more than a few hours!

Additional Reading: Download Squad, Chris F. Waigl, Slashdot


  1. Your post made me think of the 1985 Bond movie A View to a Kill, in which bad guys try to destroy Silicon Valley. For some reason, I can’t shake the image of a snarling Christopher Walken riding a Zeppelin into a datacenter.

  2. Webomatica says:

    Yes… I watched A View To A Kill a few months ago. A guilty pleasure. The plan was to pump water into the San Andreas fault causing a massive earthquake in Silicon Valley and Walken’s chip company company would “profit!”