The Slashdot Effect is a sudden temporary uptick in traffic to a small website which is generated by a link from a larger website. The effect is named for a popular website called Slashdot, where users can submit stories of interest to share with other users. For a small website, the Slashdot Effect can overwhelm the server, temporarily taking the site offline.
When a website gets Slashdotted, it can potentially have over 1,000 hits per minute in the first few hours, which can be a drastic change for a site which only got around 1,000 hits per day prior to the link on Slashdot. Within a few hours, the Slashdot Effect will usually start to taper off, as the story moves down the front page, and within a day or so, hits will drop dramatically as the story is removed from the front page entirely.
Sites which have larger numbers of audio, video, or image files can quickly be overwhelmed by traffic from a major site as these files eat up bandwidth every time they are loaded. Inefficiently designed websites can also be temporarily taken out, as users overwhelm the site's content management system. The Slashdot Effect can also impact web communities such as bulletin boards, as the influx of interested visitors can result in a large number of new signups, stirring up resentment in the community.
Several other sites can generate a Slashdot Effect; Digg, Fark, and Metafilter all link directly to stories all over the Internet, for example, sometimes causing an overload of web traffic for small sites. While the sudden rush of attention can be very flattering for a site owner, it can also be problematic. Site owners may be required to purchase more bandwidth or move their sites to dedicated servers, a significantly more expensive method of handling web traffic.
Generally, when news sites like Slashdot link to other big sites, the Slashdot effect is not a major problem, because the site has the capacity to handle it. For example, if a Digg user links to an interesting BBC article, the surge in traffic will not take the BBC's website down, because the organization is accustomed to handling a high volume of web traffic. Most major newspapers and media outlets are equipped for heavy use, and they are able to accommodate a surge of visitors.
Ultimately, many webmasters regard the Slashdot Effect as a good thing, since it indicates that content on their sites is interesting enough for thousands of people to want to check it out. A number of methods for dealing with the Slashdot Effect have been proposed, from mirroring small sites on other servers to asking permission from smaller sites before linking to ensure that they don't get overwhelmed with traffic. These solutions are not terribly practical in the real world; webmasters who want to avoid getting Slashdotted, Farked, or Dugg should probably stick to dull content.