• United States
Contributing Writer

War hits online…hard

Apr 03, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Watching the war unfold on the Internet

Everyone knows by now that the disturbing images of the prisoners of war being held in Iraq were shown on Al-Jazeera television. Shortly after CNN aired the images as well as those of the dead soldiers, they and other networks declared they would not be showing them again.

I, like millions of others around the world, did not get to watch the video. But, like a lot of other folks, I felt that I should have seen them to comprehend fully the impact of the war.

So, of course, I started searching online. A couple of my coworkers joined in the hunt. One coworker found the video on a Dutch site, but by the next morning, when he told me, it had been taken down. Another coworker got frustrated by the search engines that turned up stories about the video, but not the video itself. I eventually found the video… and in some ways, wished I hadn’t, perhaps adding to the old adage that curiosity does indeed kill the cat.

Ironically, Al-Jazeera, the original broadcaster of the footage, was in the midst of its own battle during this time. As of Thursday last week, the English-language version of the site had been taken down after being hammered by denial-of-service attacks. According to the IDG News Service, the U.S. hosting service for the site said the attacks were putting too much of a strain on other traffic traversing their networks.

The IDG News Service reports that Al-Jazeera is in an ongoing battle. “All of our Web sites are down. The U.S. (Web site) is out of order and the Europe (Web site) is under attack. We come up for five or 10 minutes and then the attacks bring us down again,” said Salah AlSeddiqi, IT manager at Al-Jazeera, which is based in Qatar.

According to the news service, Al-Jazeera tried to combat the attacks by boosting its bandwidth, but had no luck.

While Al-Jazeera struggles with hack attacks, other sites are buckling under the strain of increased hits. For instance, Keynote reports that has been experiencing “severe” problems associated with “Web server capacity issues.” The Marines site at is also reportedly having issues, but Keynote attributes them to bandwidth demands.

Yahoo reports that searches for information about the war in Iraq are trumping its usual searches for keywords that lead to online transactions such as music and gaming. In fact, “Iraq” and “Saddam Hussein” and “war on Iraq” were among the top searches last week. People are scouring the Web for maps of Iraq and Baghdad, as well as history of the relationship between the U.S. and Iraq. Other popular searches include military weapons information such as background on the Tomahawk and the MOAB.

I’ll be interested to see what kind of hit the Web took in terms of streaming media. After all, there are the live camera shots from Baghdad playing round the clock on dozens of sites. There are the live feeds from news programs – local, national and international – going out to desktops around the world. And there is video on demand for just about every stage of the war.

Stay tuned to see how the Internet fairs over the next few weeks. Something tells me there are a lot of requests for boosts in bandwidth allocation and Web server hosting being sent to providers.

What do you think? Will the Web hang tough from all the use? Or will we see some cracks in its armor?