For nerds and Sinologists alike: the Firefox 3 snarl

As mentioned two days ago, the Mozilla organization, creator of Firefox, has been trying to gin up a world-wide effort to get as many people as possible to download the official version of Firefox 3 on its release day, June 17. And if users around the world hit the servers all at once, they could set a Guinness World Record for most downloads in a 24-hour span. Great!

So of course when the fun began about 12 hours ago, as the release files went up and users everywhere logged in -- the Mozilla servers promptly froze and crashed.

Let's see. You're a leading internet company, and you're drumming up action from all around the world for what you hope will be a simultaneous assault on your servers, maybe you should be prepared for... a huge surge in traffic?? Just a thought.

And, hmmm, why does this make me think of the Olympics?

Anyone who has observed the countdown to the Games in Beijing will know the answer: Much-heralded launch of online ticket sales, followed by immediate crash of ticketing system. Discreet announcement last week that, ahem, the bank-card and foreign-exchange systems might not be ready in time. I'm sure that will cause no inconvenience at all. (That was in the Asian Wall Street Journal on June 11, in an item by J.R. Wu; no longer see it on line. Update: link here and additional story here. ) Other logistics measures I'll mention separately soon -- all of course in the context of my recently professed and actually sincere fondness for most people I encounter in China.

On the brighter side:

1) Mozilla servers now up and humming once again. As I write, there's still about 12 hours to go in the attempt to set a 24-hour download record.

2) Firefox 3 really is good. I've used the Release Candidate versions long enough not to be worried about instabilities. Main nerd advantage: how much faster it is and how much less memory it uses than FF2. Main consumer advantages well explained here and here and here, with links for extra info.

3) If the Olympic parallel holds, then items #1 and #2 may augur well for the Games. More on this theme soon.

4) A bonus geopolitical point. No wonder it's so hard to negotiate with the North Koreans! When I last checked the world map of people planning to download, by country, roughly 300 people in North Korea had "pledged" to do so. And when I checked the map just now, a grand total of zero had followed through. What good are such promises? (Note for non-native speakers: just a little joke.) And, as of this moment, 102 people had downloaded it in Iraq -- versus more than 136,000 in Iran. Make of that what you will.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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