Don’t blame the server
How many times have you tried to log on to a site and failed where previously you have had unabated access? The ‘thinking icon’ deliberates, contemplates and meditates, but still the desired information refuses to appear.
"It’s the useless server again," you presume after a frustrating five minutes spent repeatedly clicking Mr Refresh. However researchers at the University of Washington have now discovered that this may not necessarily be the case.
Black holes on the 'net
Graduate student Ethan Katz-Bassett and his advisor Arvind Krishnamurthy have discovered that information is constantly being lost along digital conduits that were previously operational. They have termed these areas where information travels into oblivion as the internet’s ‘black holes’, and apparently they comprise a whopping 10% of the internet.
It appears the internet, which is trusted as a reliable communication network for many vital services, is actually less dependable than phone networks. In fact since the inception of their analysis last September almost a million black holes and reachability problems have been detected.
The hubble program
The researchers have designed a system called Hubble, named after the NASA space telescope that first detected intergalactic black holes. It operates via a network of cyber-probes which detect computers that can be reached by some, but not all, of the internet. This data suggest that there is an issue occurring en route and there is the presence of a black hole. The probes monitor up to 90% of the net.
Bassett and Krishnamurthy hope the new technology will drastically improve the functionality of the internet by allowing ISPs to track down the source of problems experienced on their network. Their data is updated every 15 minutes and their website hosts a map illustrating where black holes are occurring at any given minute.
What triggers a black hole?
It is believed the black holes are caused by problems with particular routers. This can vary from issues with new router paths not operating properly to issues with multi-homing.
Multi homing protocol connects a site to the internet from more than one address, which enables it to have several different connectivity links. The technology is meant to make it easier for information packets reach their destination, yet it is also making it easier for those packets to be sent to black holes.
It is hoped that future versions of Hubble will be able to more precisely pinpoint the exact cause of the holes.Maybe the researchers will be able to find a way to permanently reroute SPAM to these holes too!
So next timed the hourglass refuses to disappear from your monitor don’t be so quick to blame your particular server. It is quite possible the information you desire has passed over the event horizon and into cyber oblivion.