Encyclopedia of life launches, then crashes

From Good Morning Silicon Valley

If your new site crashes under heavy traffic at launch, even when you’ve prepared for a surge, that’s a sign that you may be on to something. And by that standard, the Encyclopedia of Life got off to a healthy start Tuesday. The encyclopedia has set itself a modest goal — it simply wants to be a single, comprehensive collection of everything we know about every species on Earth. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 1.8 million known species and an estimated 10 times that many yet to be cataloged. To fill the pages, the encyclopedia is using customized software to extract information from all manner of scholarly sources and display it in a standardized format. The data is then vetted by experts. The site hopes to have entries for all the known species within a decade, but for its public debut, it offered starter pages for 30,000 species, mostly plants, amphibians and fish. Still, that was enough to draw a crowd that exceeded the organizers’ optimistic estimates, bringing the site to its knees for a while. To give folks an idea of what a more fleshed out version of the site will look like, some demonstration pages were created, and of these, the one most viewed so far is about the death-cap mushroom, which founding chairman Jesse Ausubel whimsically attributes to society’s deep underlying homicidal tendencies.