White Ribbon On Google.com Crashes UN Women Website [Update: 1M Uniques By 11 AM ET]

Google has at least partially crashed the website unwomen.org today by placing a link to it on the front page of Google.com. The search giant is commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on its homepage, as well as on the new tab page in the Google Chrome web browser. But the page in receipt of all the clicks is struggling to stay online.

Unlike with its other efforts that send web searchers to timely content relating to holidays or various special occasions, Google did not create a customized Google logo doodle for the day in question. Instead, an image of a white ribbon appears beneath the search box on Google.com, and, for Google Chrome users, it appears below both the Google search box and the website thumbnails of your most recently visited pages on Chrome.

The unwomen.org page is not entirely down, however. In some cases, the site loads almost normally. Other times, it loads very slowly. And in other cases still, we were met with “Service Unavailable (HTTP Error 503) webpages.


Currently, the website DownForEveryoneOrJustMe.com reports that unwomen.org site is up, but for a large part of the morning so far, anyone clicking on the link from Google.com was met with such slow page load times that end result is essentially the same as if the site was down entirely. That is, after several minutes of waiting, the site would usually load – but by then, most of the curious passers-by would have given up and clicked away.

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That’s a shame because the article being linked to is a worthwhile awareness-raising effort on the part of Google and UN Women, the United Nations entity focused on gender equality and empowerment for women.

The UN observes the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th, a date that marks the assassination in 1960 of the three Mirabal sisters, who were political activists in the Dominican Republic, or so the articles explains if you are able to get it to load. Today kicks off sixteen further days of activism against Gender Violence, which will this year also include an “Orange the World in 16 Days” theme. This encourages participants to wear the color orange, which is the official color of the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign.

We reached out to the UN Women organization via email and left messages, but have not yet heard back on how the group may be working to resolve the situation internally with its web server response times. In the meantime, the UN Women Twitter account remains a decent alternative in terms of staying informed about the ongoing campaigns and other efforts.


TechCrunch spoke to the web team at unwomen.org this afternoon to learn more about the outage and downtime. If you’ve ever been curious about the power of the Google.com homepage, read on.

According to the team there, Google did work with the organization in advance to inform them that they would like to link to their page today in order to give them time to prepare. However, lacking any hard numbers about exactly how much traffic to prepare for, the team prepared their servers to handle just 15,000 concurrent users by adding three additional servers to their usual two, plus increasing RAM and CPU power on all machines.

As it turned out, the ribbon on the Google homepage ending up sending over 70,000 concurrent users to the site at peak times (9:30-10 AM ET) – something which may have had to do with the somewhat mysterious nature of the ribbon. Though the ribbon when hovered over did say “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women,” a good number of people likely clicked out of sheer curiosity first.

According to Eduardo Gomez, the web manager for unwomen.org, the 70,000 figure is being pulled from web server stats, but the numbers may be higher by the end of the day when they’re able to pull all their data.

For what it’s worth, Google did reach out after the site began crashing with offers to help. By 11 AM ET, the unwomen.org site had seen nearly 1 million unique visitors, the team tells us. Around noon Eastern, Google switched the URL to point to another UN website in order to give unwomen.org some relief.

Still, the group is grateful for the link despite the troubles. “For us, this a win. Even though our website wasn’t able to handle it at the end of the day, this is still bringing awareness for a very important area for us,” says Jaya Jiwatram, the web officer for UN Women.