Comic-Con, the San Diego event that happens each summer, was a delight to take my 18 year old son Alex to last year. Buying the tickets in advance was a huge disappointment (we didn’t get the preview night nor Saturday as they were sold out) but we still had a great time.
I’m unable to get in to buy tickets and he’s still waiting. The reason I couldn’t get tickets was not solely because of demand, but more because the EPIC registration Comic-Con uses failed and it is not designed to scale.
The exact second our computers ticked over to 9am PST (11am CST here in Minnesota) my son and I clicked the button to register. Six minutes later I received an ASP.NET failure screen and my son’s browser is still trying to load the registration page, well over an hour later (and we’re not holding out hope he’ll get in at this point).
How long did it take for 2013 Comic Con International to sell out? According to some reports, it took all of six minutes. According to posts on both Facebook and Twitter, many people who tried clicking on the link right when tickets went on sale didn’t even make it into the waiting room. Reports of the page not loading, error messages, and other issues were frequent.
As someone who works with serious I.T., software and web app experts, I continue to be stunned by how incredibly weak the EPIC registration system is and how easily it could be improved. As I mentioned, my browser received a server failure screen 6 minutes after I clicked and, after refreshing, I instantly received the “waiting room” page you see below (click for larger view):
ASP.NET is Microsoft’s web application framework and, out of the HUNDREDS of serious developers I know—especially those who have created web apps that can scale to MILLIONS of concurrent users—think that ASP.NET is a joke and would NEVER use it for anything but low-level, minimal use corporate web applications.
A smart registration company would:
- Have a scalable solution that would let everyone get to a lightweight page with a queue-counter on it, would automatically queue everyone up, and then would “let them in” to the registration system as the “slots” opened up. All of us would know the moment we landed on the “counter page” whether or not we had a chance of getting in or not rather than simply FAIL with a server crash
- Anticipate demand by using an edge serving company like Akamai and their web application accelerator.
Unfortunately Comic-Con is a non-profit who is using a dumb registration company, EPIC, and doing a quick search on Twitter shows there are hundreds and hundreds of disappointed people like my son and I. I’m stunned that the Twitter account, @Comic_Con, is saying nothing. Even THAT is a fail since they should say SOMETHING to their potential attendees. Get your shit together Comic-Con.