Can WordPress Handle a Highly-Trafficked, Highly-Searched, Highly-Commented Site?

September 27, 2006

The big idea behind Bessed is that it’s a search site which allows you to comment on search results and add new pages via the comments section of each search results page.

To accomplish this, we’re building the site on WordPress. We did this for a number of reasons:

1. WordPress is free software. We don’t have much money.

2. WordPress has a community that likes WordPress sites and are familiar with WordPress sites. That makes it more likely a core group will latch onto our site, like what we’re doing, and spread the word.

3. WordPress is a cinch to install, and at this point the tech end of things is not our greatest strength. This will have to change as our traffic grows, but for now it was nice to get up and running quick-like.

But I have reservations about WordPress, mostly centering around its speed and its ability to process lots of traffic, lots of comments and lots of searches.

We are using WordPress in an unconventional way, perhaps in a way that WordPress is not meant to be used, a way that just might be asking for trouble. WordPress is blog software, and the majority of most blogs’ traffic is on the first few pages, while older pages are more likely to collect dust, especially once you’re talking about content that’s a year old or more. I would also guess that the average blog has a fairly low number of searches conducted on it. So WordPress does the job for these blogs.

But Bessed is a different model. It’s going to be a huge site content-wise, more on the scale of a Wikipedia, and past posts aren’t just going to be old-news archives that are searched only occassionally. Instead, they are going to be the pages that are accessed repeatedly by site searchers looking for relevant sites that fit their needs. In addition, by asking our visitors to comment on results and add their own sites via comments, we’re setting ourselves up for high comment usage.

We’re not half-assing this. Even though our traffic is nothing right now, Bessed is sitting on a dedicated server and we are prepared to upgrade that when the situation becomes necessary. We’re not trying to cheap out here.

But I’m already seeing that while WordPress is posting, the site can become inaccessible for anywhere from a few seconds to a half-minute, although it’s usually the former. I suppose this is database stuff happening, but that lag isn’t very acceptable to me, especially if I’m thinking that this site is going to have thousands of visitors in the future. It has to be accessible and fast.

I mentioned this to a friend who knows a little about this stuff & he told me it’s not WordPress so much as the fact that a MySQL database isn’t really built to handle high numbers of queries and house a truly huge site. Since I’m no expert, I don’t know if he’s right or if he’s just one of those techies who thinks everything is done wrong unless the idea on how to do it came out of their very own heads.

For now, it’s WordPress. And I hope it’s WordPress for the long haul. But I’m going to be keeping a close eye on performance and be open to making a switch (which would be a royal pain in the ass) if necessary.


One comment

  1. I just redesigned the entire Profootballtalk website in WordPress. They serve millions of pages per day.

    The WordPress couldn’t handle it worth a hill of beans and crashed within minutes.

    We are looking into other solutions now.

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