Google was eating all my bandwidth!

Some of you who tried to access my web site in recent days have noticed that it was getting increasingly sluggish. In an earlier post, I reported that Google accounted for 25% of my page hits, sometimes much more. As it turns out, these two issues are related. Google was eating all my bandwidth.

I investigated the matter and found out that Google was spending a lot of time spidering some posting boards I host. So, I did two things: I created a robots.txt file which tells Google to stop indexing the content of the posting boards, and I deleted all messages older than 90 days in these posting boards (which resulted in the deletion of 200,000+ messages). Both of these actions are bad for the web. I wanted people to have access to these archives. I wanted to keep them. I have gigabytes of storage, but I’m far more limited on bandwidth!

I’ll report here about how it goes, but this tells me that Google has reached the limits of freshness and exhaustivity. And no, I’m not the only one worrying about Google using up too much of my bandwidth. If we get to a point where Google accounts for 25% of all web traffic, what are we going to do collectively?

I don’t believe the solution lies in the webmasters. I don’t want to have to tell Google, in details, what to index and when to index it. However, I could imagine a standard by which Google could query a web service and determine what content, if any, has changed. Similarly, given a directory of static HTML page, there is got to be a way for Apache to tell Google what files have changed in the recent past. I’m amazed there isn’t a standard way to do this yet.

I know Robin will tell me to use Sitemaps, but from the look of it, while it looks easy to create a Google Sitemap for static content, creating a Sitemap for a complex site made of static content, wordpress pages, posting boards and so on, is far more daunting. I don’t want to spend the next week working on such a stupid project. This has to be automated.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the Université du Québec (TELUQ).

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