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High pressure on the web

By Jean-Claude Elias - Mar 19,2020 - Last updated at Mar 19,2020

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For many years now there has been concern about what may happen to us all should the global network break or fail. Countless stories, including in the very column, have been written about the hypothetical doomsday scenario. In all of them the main fear that was expressed was that the Internet would fail because of an unexpected, accidental technical failure, or an intentional criminal act.

None of these scenarios involved a failure that would take place because the network would have to handle a sudden, exceptional, tremendous load, generated by an unusual, extraordinary situation, one that is unrelated to any technical mishap or criminal act. Which is the situation we are now living because of the Covid-19.

Millions are told to work from home and an overwhelming number of school children are re-oriented to remote web sites to keep on learning and to do their homework. One can imagine the scale of the additional stress put on the Internet this way.

At this point in time, and while this very article is being written and emailed to the Jordan Times, no noticeable negative impact is felt. No network slowdown and no failure – thank God. There are rare cases, however, where users have felt some impact, though it remains minor and temporary.

A couple of examples

One of the most popular sites for e-learning and that some private schools in Jordan use is It is based in Norway. Earlier this week, and for a short period, itslearning was flooded and stopped responding, because of the unusual number of school children accessing it. According to itslearning had 10,000 hits in 10 minutes! Access to it was restored in only a few hours. is frequently used as a video conferencing and online meeting site. It is fast, reliable and easy to use even if you are not particularly technically minded. Zoom too encountered a temporary slowdown earlier this week because more and more people understandably were going for online meetings to conduct their business, instead of meeting in person, physically.

The list of online sites and services we depend on is a mile long, from Skype to Messenger, WhatsApp, Internet telephony and video calls, email and online banking. Over the last few days and given the health situation everywhere in the world, our dependence on these sites, on the online services and on the web in a general manner, has increased 10, 100 or perhaps 1,000 times – it is impossible to estimate – and it will probably increase even more in the coming days. The added load on the web obviously is proportional to this dependency.

The good news is that we do have the Internet to help us cope with the situation and work from home, and that despite the added pressure it seems to be holding on strong. The fact that fibre optic connection has superseded the old ADSL in most places is a reassuring factor and will certainly contribute to maintain the global network in a good and reliable state.

Should we start being reasonable when using the Internet, so as to reduce the added load, like for example to avoid unnecessary huge uploads/downloads? Should we cut on Netflix or music streaming? Should we keep video conferencing and Skype video chats for critical matters and refrain from using it to communicate with friends and family?

Nothing like that seems necessary at this point and it probably, hopefully, won’t be at any time. Besides, in this situation of confinement at various degrees, even a friendly or family video chat may qualify as critical and would prove to be as important as a business communication in the end. In addition to conducting formal work, being able to communicate with our beloved ones will be essential to our well-being and our sanity, mentally and physically.

The best we can wish for, in addition of course to an as-soon-as-possible and positive outcome to the Covid-19 crisis, is that all those in charge of the Internet will be able to ensure it is up all the time, fast, and here for us all. They deserve to be thanked in advance for their highly critical, vital work.

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