The theoretical beauty of an online store is you don’t have to worry about crowds getting in the way. People come with a click of the mouse, with a few more clicks and a credit card they purchase some bits, then wander off to enjoy their purchase. That’s the theory of friction-free shopping. In the real world a popular thing–you know, made of atoms–like the iPod can cause a mighty tech company to shudder under the strain:
Swarms of online shoppers armed with new iPods and iTunes gift cards apparently overwhelmed the Apple’s iTunes music store over the holiday, prompting error messages and slowdowns of 20 minutes or more for downloads of a single song.
Frazzled users began posting urgent help messages Monday and Tuesday on Apple’s technical forum for iTunes, complaining they were either not allowed into the store or were told the system couldn’t process their request to download songs and videos.
It was not immediately clear how many people were affected by the slowdowns, and Apple Computer Inc. would not immediately comment Wednesday on what caused the slowdown and whether it had been fixed.
Blame the schools for being so generous as to give kids a Christmas vacation and parents who didn’t think it was all-important to shop the day after Christmas.
Popularity that leads to increased revenues is good. Being popular with federal prosecutors isn’t good.