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The biggest Web outages of 2011

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Emma Roberts attends the Missoni for Target Collection launch Sept. 7 in New York City. Online demand was so heavy for the new line that it crashed the site.

Bank of America's website outage, along with those of Netflix, Target and Reddit, were among the biggest Web fails this year, but there's good news: "Though we witnessed a number of minor website outages and performance declines in 2011, we're encouraged to report that there were fewer significant website outages this year than in 2010."

That's the word from SmartBear Software, which put together the list. Last year's fails — you may well remember these like they were yesterday — included Facebook, Twitter, MasterCard, Visa, JCPenney and Tumblr.

As for this year's list, the "winners" are:

Netflix, under fire for its price increases, "had a number of short website interruptions this year, which collectively resulted in prolonged service disruption to millions of Netflix subscribers." The first outage was March 22; "On this day, we tested Netflix's home page 20 times between 6:22 p.m. ET and 7:59 p.m. ET. Of those samples, only two successfully loaded the home page, revealing that the site was unusable for most users during that time frame," says SmartBear.

Another outage lasted several hours June 19, and the site "also experienced performance issues" July 20 and Aug. 22. (We recall Netflix having some log-in issues with its site in late November, as well.)

Reddit, Foursquare, Hootsuite, "et al":
In April, "one of the greatest concerns of cloud patrons was confirmed when Amazon Web Services went down, taking Reddit, Foursquare, Hootsuite, Quora, and a number of other social websites offline with it." AWS serves as the Web hosting and storage center for the sites, and what happened " exemplified the need for cloud customers to do their due diligence and maintain a sense of ownership and responsibility" over their "uptime," says SmartBear.

Target
The retail giant's website "came crashing down" Sept. 13 with an "unprecedented number of shoppers" trying to order items from the new Missoni for Target line. "The trouble continued throughout the day with shoppers later greeted, at least, by a customized error page," says SmartBear. "The incident led to a firestorm of criticism and disappointment from shoppers."

Bank of America
The bank was "no stranger to website trouble this year, as the company experienced several website outages that make this year's list. On Jan. 14, bankofamerica.com was only 41 percent available and delivered response times in excess of 90 seconds.

"A month and a half later, the site experienced another brief, though noteworthy, outage," says SmartBear. "On March 1, Bank of America delivered 83.09 percent availability and response times over 15 seconds to users."

October brought the worst woes for the site, though, with "one of the most extended periods of performance trouble we've witnessed in recent times." Because of that outage, SmartBear ranks it as the biggest Web outage of the year. 

"For six consecutive days, the site delivered a series of slowdowns and outages, which the bank attributed to a combination of technical issues and higher than anticipated website traffic. The issues began just one day after BofA announced plans to charge a $5 monthly debit card fee," which it rescinded Nov. 1. Coincidence? Perhaps.

The list from SmartBear, which provides Web load-testing and monitoring tools, does not include website fails caused by hackers, such as Anonymous. Its first widely known denial-of-service attack was launched last December against MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and other financial institutions which disrupted donations to WikiLeaks.

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