European Online Library Returns, This Time With Beta Tag

A European online library that crashed on its opening day is back in operation -- this time around with a "beta" tag on its home page.

Europeana.eu launched on Nov. 20 -- and promptly froze as up to 10 million hits per hour overwhelmed its Web servers, which were designed to cope with less than a third of that.

"Europeana works well again. It went through a series of stress testing," said the European Commission's spokesperson for media, Martin Selmayr, at a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday.

Server capacity has been quadrupled and more capacity can be added if peak-hour requests exceed the Nov. 20 high of 10 million hits per hour, he said.

One other significant change is the addition of a bright orange "beta" label to the site's logo -- something that wasn't there on launch day.

Europeana isn't the only one to use the beta label to lower users' expectations of reliability. Months or even years after their launch, sites like Yahoo's Pipes or Google's Gmail bear a discreet warning that their services are in beta, a software industry term that usually indicates that a program is feature-complete but still undergoing testing to identify and eliminate the final bugs.

To further lower visitors' expectations, Europeana's home page now warns: "Europeana is testing newly configured hardware. The site is therefore open for you to use but the user experience may not be optimal in this test phase e.g.: the number of users will be limited in peak times."

Once Europeana's webmasters are happy with the site's performance, more visitors will be drawn in with more content.

"We expect that in the course of February we will be able to add new cultural material to Europeana and make it even more interesting than it is today," Selmayr said.

The site hosts digitized versions of cultural treasures and historic documents, sound and video archives from European libraries and museums.

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