Apple’s self-inflicted DOS attack (aka iPhone pre-order)

Yes, I drank the Kool Aid this morning…about 2:30am. I had my Touch next to my bed with the alarm set to a strategic time and the Apple store page ready for quick reloading. It was about 1am, i think, when the page loaded and i knew it was time to get up and join the fun (aka chaos). Initially I tried Chrome, but switched to IE and FF thinking I didn’t want to run into any compatibility issues.

I saw the Twitter meltdown, but since their API was still working, I could read the tweets real-time on Google as I sat and patiently (but sleepily) attempted the pre-order process. Was I surprised that the Apple store site couldn’t handle the flood of traffic? No. Particularly when they had to interact with AT&T to get the upgrade eligibility, phone plans, etc. Was I surprised that the AT&T site allowed you to click Pre-order but only had the iPhone 3G models. No. AT&T is just lame.

Sure, I was aggravated that I had to enter my phone number, zip code, and last 4 digits of my social countless times, but I thought about all of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people trying to do the same exact thing and I understood why there were problems. C’mon, even Twitter with it’s 140-character text posts couldn’t handle the flood of traffic.

I read the frustrated tweets of would-be iPhone 4 pre-orderers pointing blame at Apple or AT&T for their seemingly futile purchase attempts. A few “I got it” posts lightly peppered the stream keeping the army of die hards’ hopes up.

AT&T got their act together after about 30 minutes, but even after getting to the very last click I closed the tab and continued to try through the Apple store. “Surely AT&T would F it up somehow,” I reasoned. I got to the last click many times on only for it to sit and finally timeout. After about 1-1/2 hours of this circus I just gave in and completed the pre-order through AT&T. No problem at all. I figure the worst that can happen is I’ll have to wait a day or two extra. Of course, there is a high likelihood that and AT&T will use the same fulfillment center since the phones come pre-activated, so there may be no difference which site you order from.

Despite what’s being reported, my feeling is that Apple knew it was impossible for the online pre-ordering to go smoothly initially. It’s like all the people leaving a sporting event at the end of the game. Sure, the facility plans the best they can, but in the end it’s always pandemonium that ultimately works itself out over time. There’s probably some formal name for this, but for now I’ll call it Doug’s Funnel Theory. If you overfill a funnel, the excess will overflow and miss the target, but some will make it to the destination. As the flow eventually tapers off and reaches the proper rate, everything makes it. I guess it’s more of a Law than a theory…

For the majority of Internet users that have no idea of how it works, I guess the process was broken. The reality is that it was probably working as designed.

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