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Is a web site that tracks down time of other web sites really needed?
February 16, 2014 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm having trouble getting onto my favorite techie forum site, stackexchange, and this tracking site comes up in google. In fact, the only reason I even thought to search on down time, as opposed to some myriad of other possible issues causing trouble with a web site (such as browser or home network issues), was I couldn't get google yesterday and, gasp, used Yahoo to lookup something. What do you know about this site, isitdownrightnow? I see it used once before on AskMetafilter 01-20-2013. Is a tracker of site down time really needed?
posted by xtian to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
People use sites like this for exactly what you used it for - determining if a connection problem is on their end or on the other guy's (StackExchange in your example) end.

I don't understand your question, can you clarify?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:25 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


Yes, sometimes the reason you can't get to a particular web site is that there is some sort of technical or filtering problem between you and the remote site.

For example, some large companies will run filtering software which will prevent you from reaching a particular web site. If the tacking site says its up for everyone else, you can track down what is broken on your side.

In most cases, it's just a temporary problem that will resolve itself in less than a day.

Other times it takes some action on your part. For example, a couple months ago my work was blocked from Amazon due to some automatic blocker on their side. One of our developers was trying some new API and got our entire company blocked. A phone call was able to resolve the problem.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:30 AM on February 16


Our ISP at my second job utterly sucks. We use websites like that to demonstrate to their customer service team how much time has passed since our website goes down a lot because if our website is down we can't make any money at all. It's extremely useful to have sites like that at our disposal.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:30 AM on February 16


I've not experienced this very often. And whenever it occurs, it usually doesn't take long before the issue is resolved. If a site isn't working, and you can check the site in another browser, and get other web sites, then its most likely their issue. And since most use of web sites is not super critical brain surgery type crisis. One can check back shortly to find the site back up. I don't see it as a very big problem.

On the other hand, I'm logging in using my facebook account to make a comment. Which is entering my personal info into their databases and wot wot. While I thought it curious when I first made the comment. Sort of caught up in the facebook interaction style of commenting on events, after I gave the site my ok to connect to my fb account, I started to question who this company was. Its not like I'm liking a funny cat picture on a friend's facebook page.
posted by xtian at 11:33 AM on February 16


Did that downtime-tracker site ask you for a Facebook login?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:37 AM on February 16


These Birds of a Feather,
OK. I'm surprised godaddy or networksolutions don't offer a service like this, if its such a persistent problem.

Lobstermitten
...Yeah. Here's my facebook avatar.
posted by xtian at 11:40 AM on February 16


"most use of web sites is not super critical brain surgery type crisis. One can check back shortly to find the site back up. I don't see it as a very big problem."

I make my living by selling online. If the site is down, I can't do my job. It's critical that I know whether the issue is on my end or theirs. So for me, and for a lot of other people in similar situations, it can be a very big problem.
posted by jessicapierce at 11:44 AM on February 16 [4 favorites]


There's a new thread over on Reddit saying that StackOverflow is down.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:58 AM on February 16


@jessicapierce,
Unless you also need to track the up/down time of your competitors, there are generally many tools available to site owners to track their site's up-time including writing your own custom script, and any number of other normally available site monitoring tools and log files. As bottlebrush notes, problems also occur between you and the site in question. That said, I'm not saying you haven't found the site, as a business owner, useful and economical. (^_^)

I guess my gut reaction to this site has to do with the social commenting aspect using facebook. Is it a business venture? Is it a tool? A toy? It has this really public friendly name, who can forget "isitdownrightnow"? And the top sites showing uptime are game sites, facebook, etc.

My tech head curiosity asks if they are implementing something special?
posted by xtian at 11:59 AM on February 16


Don't use one that requires Facebook, if you don't like it. Having Facebook logins equates to revenue somehow, so that's why that site does it the way they do.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:02 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Hey man, you gotta stop thread sitting.

The social media link up is to spread the word that a site is officially down for everyone. It can help alert website owners to issues if they have a Facebook presence, and it can also shame them into action if something has been down for ages.

Also, could you clarify whether your original question has been answered?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:04 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


xtian, to clarify, I don't use my own standalone site, I use a third-party website similar to ebay. My insight into site workings is extremely limited, and I have no ability to write a script to tell me anything about site downtime. It's very useful to have a way to tell whether my inability to connect to a website is the website's fault, or something wrong on my end. This knowledge then enables me to take the next logical step: fix the problem if it's mine, get in touch with the site's tech team if it's on their end, or find something offline to do.

Since you haven't named a specific site, I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing. I'm just giving one example of why a downtime-monitoring site *might* be useful to people in some situations.

In general, if a website exists and is being used/viewed, it must by definition be useful, right? Didn't you yourself use it today? Therefore it was of use to you. I guess I don't really understand what you are asking.
posted by jessicapierce at 12:08 PM on February 16


Is a tracker of site down time really needed?

For various definitions of "need," sure. I find sites like that (I use downforeveryoneorjustme) to figure out if I should get off my ass and reboot the router or if I should just wait for the down site to come back up. Downforeveryone doesn't ask for a login. The one you linked requires a fb login to make a comment, but nothing requires you to comment in the first place, so...
posted by rtha at 12:11 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


since most use of web sites is not super critical brain surgery type crisis. One can check back shortly to find the site back up. I don't see it as a very big problem.

Mostly agree. At the same time people have widely different ideas of what is important to them and/or to their business. many people run businesses online. At MetaFilter, for example, an hour of down time is not something we flip out over, but we also lose real money during that time. Since so much of the web is ad-supported, uptime is a critical part of this. Additionally, I manage a lot of websites for other people (mostly doing minor edits, that sort of thing) and so I may get some sort of email from them saying "AAAAA website is down what is up AAAAAA" and even though it's really not an emergency to me, it feels like one to them. I have a bunch of tools I can use to figure these things out but tracking sites are super helpful once I've realized it's not my internet connection. This is not just because it's good to know things are down for others, but I can also send a simple URL back to someone saying "It's not just you" which is sometimes easier than "The traceroute that I am trying seems to die at blablabla so I think it may be a DNS propagation issue..."

In short, I get that you don't see why it's necessary for you, but you seem to also feel that it's not necessary for anyone and that seems to be a weird jump to make. I use this site for basic uptime assessment.
posted by jessamyn at 12:24 PM on February 16 [2 favorites]


Seconding the idea jessamyn expresses above: just because something seems unnecessary or useless to you doesn't mean everyone feels that way. I never need to use sites like your question describes, but I can see why others might find them useful or even critically important.

I'm also not sure what the problem with these sites is. They aren't hurting anyone, are they? So...live and let live, right?
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:45 PM on February 16


I guess my gut reaction to this site has to do with the social commenting aspect using facebook. Is it a business venture? Is it a tool? A toy? It has this really public friendly name, who can forget "isitdownrightnow"? And the top sites showing uptime are game sites, facebook, etc.

Your questions and responses haven't been very clear, but if I'm reading correctly, at least part of the reason you're trying to investigate this site is because you're wondering whether bad things might happen with the personal information you've given? That maybe this site is just some kind of honeypot?

As far as I can tell, it's a consumer facing tool that makes its revenue by being ad supported. Other people have talked about how it can be useful for even a consumer to be able to know if a problem in reaching a site is with their ISP or if the site itself is down.

Business oriented services for this kind of thing do exist, which you kind of know about it seems? (Hard to say, on one hand you went I'm surprised godaddy or networksolutions don't offer a service like this, if its such a persistent problem. and then on the other you're going Unless you also need to track the up/down time of your competitors, there are generally many tools available to site owners to track their site's up-time including writing your own custom script, and any number of other normally available site monitoring tools and log files.) In case you want to see more of a business customer oriented approach, googling "uptime monitoring" gets you to:

https://www.pingdom.com/

You'll notice big companies using it and that the pricing plans are far more expensive than a consumer would ever want. It uses fifty different locations to get a really accurate feel for whether the site is actually down or not. It has a bunch of different ways to tell whether the site is down and what part might be malfunctioning. It has the ability to notify across multiple channels so the business can be proactive instead of reactive. It has performance reports.

Anyway, onto this part:

On the other hand, I'm logging in using my facebook account to make a comment. Which is entering my personal info into their databases and wot wot. While I thought it curious when I first made the comment. Sort of caught up in the facebook interaction style of commenting on events, after I gave the site my ok to connect to my fb account, I started to question who this company was. Its not like I'm liking a funny cat picture on a friend's facebook page.

I think the social commenting using Facebook isn't necessarily trying to hoover up your personal information for nefarious profits--it's just that adding comments are a good way to help people engage with a site and up the page views with the ads on them, and rolling your own isn't as effective as using a popular provider that'll take care of the authentication and spam and content loading. Makes it cheaper, which helps with getting to keep the revenue from the ads. I'm not even sure the site gets your information much--a lot of site owners dislike Facebook commenting because you don't end up "owning" the comments:

http://www.leanmeanmarketing.com/facebook-comments-problem

However, this site is just having the comments for engagement but the business strategy doesn't seem to be focused around actually having the comments for content.

So no--nothing all that special is going on here probably. The service looks like it runs on a shoestring budget, offloads the comments work to Facebook, and tries to make money off of ads that show alongside the content. It doesn't have any subscription plan upsells.
posted by foxfirefey at 1:45 PM on February 16


Unless I have a friend online who I can be like "Hey, does this website work for you?" then isitdownrightnow.com is very useful. It tells me whether I need to refresh because the error is on my end or just give up for a while because the site is broken. Very useful.

I don't see it as a very big problem.

Neither is checking the whether yourself but there are still websites like doineedanumbrella.com. (I used to use a site called umbrellatoday.com but it seems to no longer exist. Unless it's just down, heehee.) The internet is all about solving small problems. Just because you don't find isitdownrightnow.com useful doesn't mean lots of other people don't.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:59 PM on February 16


I pay for web hosting. Sometimes I can't access my web host. I need a quick way to determine whether this is an issue with my internet, such as a week or so ago when Time Warner had some routing issues that led to certain sites being inaccessible, or whether the issue is with my host and something I need to contact them about. I waste their time and mine if I spend time trying to get them to fix something that isn't a problem on their end. On the other hand, if the host is really down, I need to start the process of getting it back up.

The routing thing is what makes this necessary. There are a lot of things that can go wrong between point A (your computer) and point B (the server) that could prevent you from getting there. If a website like the one you noted says it's down, then it's probably the server or at least the server's internet connection, and that significantly narrows the range of points I have to look at to solve the problem. If it says it's up, then I need to look at my connection.

But I'm not a big company, I'm paying $5/mo for this and I'm not willing to pay extra money to monitor the server. So there is a range of people in the middle for whom this is valuable.
posted by Sequence at 2:50 PM on February 16


It doesn't need to be a critical issue for it to be a useful tool. If I'm trying to get to a website but it won't load, I'll check downforeveryoneorjustme.com so that I can see whether the problem is on my end or whether the site is actually down. It only takes a second, and if the problem is on my end then I may be able to fix it. If it's actually down then I know I just need to wait and try again later.

Basically, if you find yourself wondering "is this website down for everyone, or is it just me?" then downforeveryoneorjustme (or a similar site) will give you a quick answer to your question.
posted by Scientist at 4:36 PM on February 16


andd since most use of web sites is not super critical brain surgery type crisis
I am a medical librarian at a university with a hospital attached. 99% of our online information resources (like protocols for how to handle problems encountered during surgery, or information on what anesthesia you can give to an ER-presenting gunshot victim with type 1 diabetes) are hosted by third parties. I use these type of "up or down? " sites to check doctor/nurse complaints about sites not working before escalating to our IT.
posted by holyrood at 6:58 PM on February 16


Tools like this are invaluable (and Nthing the recommendations for downforeveryoneorjustme) when you have people screaming at you that the site is down and ZOMG, and you:
1) Need documentation to prove to them that you are not making things up (is there a problem?)
2) Need outside verification that the problem is not just on your end (what is the scope of the problem?)
3) Have some validation that other people are seeing the same thing (it's not just me, right?)

There are other, special-purpose sites for very popular services. For example, issteamdown.com is a great second opinion on whether it's you, your ISP, or whether Valve is having a bad day.

Depending on how much money you want to spend, there are sites that will monitor your uptime for you, and send alert emails/text/SMS/phone calls in the event of a site outage. When you have something where uptime is essential--for example an e-commerce site where a ten-minute outage can cost you thousands of dollars--monitoring becomes very important. You can roll your own or go with a commercial service who will be happy to help you evaluate your other vendors and their promise of 5 9s of uptime.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 8:52 PM on February 17


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