Life Encyclopedia Debut Too Popular to Stay "Live"

Seth Borenstein in Washington
Associated Press
February 27, 2008

The concept of a comprehensive Internet encyclopedia of all species proved too popular. Its computers were overwhelmed and couldn't keep it alive when the site debuted Tuesday.

The encyclopedia, which eventually will have more than a million pages devoted to different species of life on Earth, quickly crashed on its first day of a public unveiling, organizers said.

(Related story: "Encyclopedia of Life" to Catalog All Species on Earth [May 9, 2007])

Scientists at the Encyclopedia of Life sought help from experts at the online, collaborative encyclopedia Wikipedia, hoping keeping their fledgling Web site going despite massive—and anticipated—interest.

The site went back up Tuesday afternoon, though additional temporary problems were expected.

"We've been overwhelmed by traffic," encyclopedia founding chairman Jesse Ausubel said. "We're thrilled."

11.5 Million

The encyclopedia's Web site logged 11.5 million hits over five and a half hours, including two hours of down time, according to organizers.

Tuesday's unveiling included limited Web pages for 30,000 species.

There are also "exemplar pages" that go into more depth, with photos, video, scientific references, maps, and text of 25 species ranging from the common potato to the majestic peregrine falcon to a relatively newly discovered obscure marine single celled organism called Cafeteria roenbergensis.

Eventually planners hope to have all 1.8 million species on the Web. They already have set up a million placeholder pages.

The most popular of the species for Web searches is the poisonous death cap mushroom, which may say something about people's homicidal intentions, joked Ausubel.

All the pages have been made by scientists, but in a few months the encyclopedia will start taking submissions from the public, like Wikipedia.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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