WASHINGTON – The concept of a comprehensive encyclopedia of life on the Internet proved too popular. Its computers were overwhelmed and couldn't keep it alive when it debuted Tuesday.
The encyclopedia, which eventually will have more than 1 million pages devoted to different species of life on Earth, quickly crashed on its first day of a public unveiling, organizers said.
Scientists at the Encyclopedia of Life sought help from experts at Wikipedia for keeping their fledgling Web site going despite massive — and anticipated — interest.
The site went back up Tuesday afternoon, but with expectations of more problems, although only temporary ones.
"We've been overwhelmed by traffic," encyclopedia founding chairman Jesse Ausubel said. "We're thrilled."
The encyclopedia's Web site logged 11.5 million hits over 5½ 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 and already have set up 1 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.