European Digital Library Launches, Promptly Crashes
Andrew Albanese -- Library Journal, 12/02/2008
- Site attracted three times more visitors than anticipated
- Expected to re-launch in December
- French dominate project
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(This article first appeared in the November 25 issue of the LJ Academic Newswire.)
Europeana, a collaborative digital library project designed to be Europe’s answer to the potential cultural dominance portended by Google, launched November 20, and promptly crashed. “The Europeana site is temporarily not accessible due to overwhelming interest after its launch,” read a statement on the site, noting that it was brought down by more than ten million hits per hour. Officials said the site won't be back up until mid-December.
Putting the best face on the collapse, Martin Selmayr, a spokesman for Viviane Reding, the European commissioner responsible for the project, told the International Herald Tribune that Europeana was a “victim of its success.” Selmayr said the crash was caused by “thousands of users’ searching simultaneously for famous cultural works like the Mona Lisa or manuscripts of literature by Kafka, Cervantes or James Joyce.” In fact, Selmayr suggested to reporters that the overwhelming traffic that crashed the servers answered concerns about whether there was sufficient interest to sustain the project. “We have our answer,” he noted.
Designers expected a maximum of five million hits an hour—but traffic at its height hit three times that much. According to the the International Herald Tribune, the most hits came from Germany, (17%) followed by France (10%), Spain (9%), Italy (6%), the Netherlands (5%), and both Belgium and the United States (4%).
The project launched in July 2007, with some two million items already digitized and available in Europe’s museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections, including films, photos, paintings, sounds, maps, manuscripts, books, newspapers, and archival papers.
According to the “deliverable outcomes” section of the project, the project will offer more than six million items by 2010, as well as more languages (its initial interface offered French, German, and English) and, eventually, a “business model that will ensure the sustainability of the website.” The project is based in the national library of the Netherlands, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, and builds on management and technical expertise developed by the European Library and the Conference of European National Librarians. The materials included in the project are public domain or otherwise free of copyright, so they can be downloaded freely and used by visitors.
The project was strongly pushed for by France as a response to Google, which French National Librarian Jean-Noel Jeanneney said constituted “a risk of crushing domination by America in defining the idea that future generations have of the world.” Ironically, the French are themselves now dominating the Europeana project. According to the New York Times, despite more than 27 participating nations, half of the project’s items come from France. “I find the figures extraordinary,” Reding told the Times, noting that “the collapse of the Berlin Wall is illustrated with a French TV documentary.”
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