Xanga News

An Update on our Servers

We’ve been experiencing some higher levels of bot traffic on Xanga lately, which have been keeping us very busy.  Bot traffic can cause the servers to get slower (or worse, to be inaccessible), so we wanted to share an update on what’s going on and what we’ve been doing to address it.

1. LOTS OF BOTS

There are a growing number of “web crawler” bots that are trying to crawl our site, and sites in general.  As Wikipedia puts it, “a Web crawler is an Internet bot that systematically browses the World Wide Web, typically for the purpose of Web indexing.”

It used to be that only large search engines like Google or Bing could afford to buy lots of servers and storage, and crawl websites.  But the rates for servers/storage have come down a lot lately, and we’ve noticed a big increase in bots and web crawlers.  Social media is also a big contributor: every time someone pins a post, Pinterest sends a bot to crawl the page being pinned.  With all the pinning going on these days, Pinterest is sending a lot of bots out there into the world!

As a result of all this, bot traffic is way up on the web and it’s been putting a strain on our servers.  We should be fine for now – and when bot traffic gets especially bad, we tweak our network settings to prevent the bots from overloading the servers.

Server maintenance is proving to be a lot of work though, so we’re looking find other ways to address the surge in bot traffic.

2. DDOS

We experience Denial-of-Service attacks from time to time as well.  (“In computing, a denial-of-service (DoS) or distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users.” – Wikipedia)

Recently we were the inadvertent target of a DDoS attack on our servers.  Our webhost had a bunch of random servers compromised by a security vulnerability known as Shellshock. Our servers were not compromised (we had patched them immediately after the security vulnerability came to light), but some hackers used the other compromised servers to attack another set of servers on our web host.

Even though we weren’t directly attacked, the compromised servers caused significant congestion on our webhost’s network – and that congestion caused our servers to be unable to reach the Internet. So Xanga went down for about 2 hours.

By the time we had figured out what was going on, the webhost had resolved the issue on their end.  And with some server tweaks on our end, we were able to once again get out servers connected to the Internet.  Our webhost has made changes to make sure that this won’t happen again, and we will continue to monitor for server vulnerabilities so we can keep our servers safe.

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Just wanted to share a little bit about the sort of server maintenance we’ve been doing a lot of lately.  Next up, we’re pulling together our thoughts on some of the top feature requests, starting with how we might upgrade our customizable theme system.

Update

We want to thank everyone for being there for us.  Without your involvement, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Here are a few of the things that we’ve been working on over this past year:

* We built out a new server system, and migrated thousands of websites over to the new servers
* We fought off ongoing DDOS and brute password attacks that were slowing the site down
* We’ve made further upgrades to our server setup over the past six months, to use new more powerful servers as they became available.
* We’re planning one more server upgrade later this year, to take advantage of better and cheaper server systems that have become available.

One area where we’ve dropped the ball is providing updates on all of the above.  Initially we were fighting off the DDOS attacks, and didn’t want to tip off our attackers on our progress.  So we focused on talking to our users one at a time, through our email support and help forums.

But more recently, we’ve largely defeated the ongoing DDOS and password attacks.  The site has been up and stable, and we’re gearing up to make the further upgrades mentioned above.  We’ll be providing more regular updates and communication, both on this blog and also on our Facebook page.

So we’re working to communicate more regularly, and to start building the community teams that we mentioned earlier.  First up: we’ve asked Joel of edlives.xanga.com to serve as a community liaison.  You can reach him at his blog at edlives.xanga.com, or through Xanga’s facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/xanga.  We will have a regular call with Joel to discuss feedback and ideas.

We’re also going to be working together to pull together a list of other areas where we could use help.  If any come to mind, please let us know and we’ll discuss it with Joel in our next call!  And as a thank you for sticking with us, we’re offering 6 months of free blog hosting to all of our paid members.  Just email Eugenia at help@xanga.net, and she’ll add it the extra months to your account!

Thank you for sticking with us over the past year.  We’re looking forward to working together to build Xanga in the coming year.

We’re working to make ~2 million blog archive backups available for FREE download asap

mentioned previously that we’ve migrated all Premium users and campaign contributors over to the Xanga 2.0 servers.

In addition, we also have prepared downloadable archives for the ~2 million Xanga blogs saved on our servers… specifically:

* We generated blog archives for every Xangan who has signed into the site in the past 5 years, as long as they have more than two subscribers (to rule out spam).
* We also generated blog  archives for every Xangan who has signed into the site in the past year, and has at least ten blogs overall.

We are currently working to make these archives available asap to all of our users (for free, of course). We’ve been working on this all day, and hope to have it available soon. There will be two ways to retrieve your data.

1) Once we launch this feature, you will be able to sign into Xanga and download the archive (for free) from the link at the top of your dashboard, or

2) Upgrade to Xanga 2.0 and we will upgrade your blog to the new servers using the data in the backup.

Let me know if you have any questions!

ps We’ve been tuning the servers all day to run faster… let us know if you can feel a difference in the site speed!

Welcome to Xanga 2.0!

Welcome to the official launch of Xanga 2.0!

Here’s how to get started:

1. SIGNIN

You can sign into your Xanga account right here:

* http://xanga.com/wp-login.php

You can use the same username and password that you’re used to, and it should work!

2. CHECK OUT YOUR BLOG

If you are premium or participated in our Xanga 2.0 campaign, your blog should be in the same location!  For example, my blog is here:
http://john.xanga.com

If your blog appears, you should be able to go to your dashboard and start blogging! :)  Your blog should even look similar to your old theme.  (If it looks a bit off, let us know here and we’ll take a look!)
http://help.xanga.com/forum/themes

If your blog doesn’t appear (and you are either premium or contributed to our campaign), please let us know in our help forum and we will look into it!
http://help.xanga.com/forum/data-migration

3. CHECK OUT YOUR READING PAGE (TO READ POSTS)

Either way, you should be able to check out your Reading page under your dashboard!

reading

It’s a great way to find updates from your subs and friends!  Speaking of which, we made some name changes related to subs and friends, to help make it a bit simpler and more intuitive… you can read about the name tweaks here!

ps  Thanks for your patience everyone… we will find a way to make it up to you!!

pps We are now officially in phase 2 (of four) of the Xanga 2.0 launch!

Phase 1: Data Migration
Phase 2: Site Tuning  <—
Phase 3: Feature Prioritization
Phase 4: Building Together

The next month or two of work on Xanga 2.0 is going to be busy, so we wanted to share with everyone a roadmap of how we’re thinking about things… if you’re interested, you can read more details about the 4 phases here

The Four Phases of the Xanga 2.0 Launch!

The next month or two of work on Xanga 2.0 is going to be busy, so I wanted to share with everyone a roadmap of how we’re thinking about things!

We’re dividing the work on this project into four basic phases.

Phase 1. Data migration

As described here, we’ve imported over every account that we have on Xanga over to the new system so that anyone who could sign into Xanga can still sign into Xanga 2.0.  (Try it here!)  We’ve also imported over everyone’s subscribers and friends, so that if somebody was subscribed or friended to you on the old system, they’re now following you on the new one too.  And f you had turned on privacy features like friends lock, then we imported that over as well.  Same goes for Signin Lock, RSS feeds being on or off, and search engine accessibility.   We’ve also migrated over everyone’s photos (25 terabytes+ of data).

Finally and most important of all, we’ve imported over 2 million blogs from the old system.  If you are premium or if you pledged to our campaign, then we’ve already imported your blog posts into Xanga 2.0. If you don’t fit into the category but you’ve been active on the site in the following ways, we’ve created a backup archive of your blog data and can migrate you to the system if you’d like. 

* We’ve archived the blogs of the hundreds of thousands of blogs where the user has logged in in the past 5 years and has at least two subscribers.
* We did an additional set of archives for 200k users who had logged in the past year and had at least 10 blogs.
* We’ve also archived the blogs of every single user that’s ever been premium at any point in the past…

And of course, a lot of you guys archived your own blogs using the old Xanga archive generator.  If you send that to us, we can always import you that way as well. :)

We”ve just finished the core of Phase 1 tonight, and will commence with Phase 2 upon launching the site!

Phase 2. Site tuning

Once we go live tonight, we anticipate that it’s going to take some time for the dust to settle.  It’s always a bit tricky to tune your servers to match the amount of load that’s being put on it. So during this phase, we will allocate servers and storage to best match the load that’s being put on it.

We’ll also work with anyone whose data didn’t make it over to get them onto the new system as quickly as possible!  We’ll be streamlining this process over the next week…

Phase 3. Feature Prioritization

We have really and truly focused on migrating over the very core features of Xanga as well as as much of the data as we could physically port over.  In some cases, we had to port over the features *in order to* be able to move the data at all; for example, we built a subscriptions engine (and merged friends and subs into it) so that we could import over all of the subscriptions and friendships over from Xanga!

Once we get all of the site data and servers stabilized, we’d love to work with you guys to pull together a list of features that you like to see on the site… and then prioritize them.  For example:

* We are keen to make a front page that features everyone’s content… It could be a simple recent weblogs module or it could be a feature weblogs module like we had before. Something like this is a top priority for us and we’d love to work with you guys to make sure that we’re designing it just right.

* Also, we are launching with a very basic theme that we hope matches the look of your old theme.  So another top priority for us is to upgrade the theme into a more easily customizable theme system that is both powerful and yet intuitive and simple.

Are these features you’d like to see right away?  We’d love to hear from you on which features you’d like to see, so please chime in below.

Phase 4. Building together

Once we’ve prioritized which features to build, we’d love to get some of you guys involved as beta testers, customer service helpers, and all the other roles we discussed here.  Please let us know below what role you’d be interested in playing, and we can setup group blogs where we can all interact. :)

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We’re currently in Phase 2: Server Tuning…  wish us all luck tonight and in the days ahead!  And thanks to everyone for your patience and support in making this all happen!