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USA Today has a pretty good (and fair) overview of the launch issues of today: a winner despite glitches

Look past its start-up glitches -- they'll get fixed -- is an out-of-the-box success for consumers shopping for health insurance.

Any e-commerce veteran can tell you: If a start-up's business proposition is sound and it delivers what it promises, it survives early days when websites crash and chaos reigns. Then it thrives. We've seen it over and over, from America Online's mid-1990s outages to any of several crashes in Netflix shares when the company made pricing mistakes or Blockbuster made a run at its markets.

The key line, for me, comes a bit later in the article:

To start with, 2.8 million people crashing a site on Day One is considered a high-class problem.
That sounds like a lot of traffic...but just how much traffic is it compared with other big sites?

Here's a traffic stats chart from

Top Websites by Monthly Visits

     Website / 2012 Monthly Visitors / 2010 Monthly Visitors
1    188 Million / 163 Million
2    157 / 110
3    148 / 135
4    88 / 55
5    85 / 126
6    81 / 79
7    77 / 74

Assuming this is accurate (and yes, there's a big difference between "unique visitors", "total visitors", "page views", etc; not sure which number this chart displays), that means that on it's first day, received more traffic than AMAZON does on average (assuming that Amazon's traffic is up to around 80 million per month this year, that breaks down to about 2.7 million visitors per day).

More importantly, the process of plugging in all of your information, having the site cross-check with the IRS database (and Social Security dept?) to confirm your info, etc. takes a lot more bandwidth than it does to plug in your credit card info and purchase a DVD or hard drive.

Now, presumably traffic has died off a bit since the initial rush of excitement, but I would imagine it's still above 2 million visitors per day.

Anyway, I just thought it was worth putting the heavy traffic in context. Frankly, I'm impressed that it's holding up as well as it has--Amazon has had 18 years of slowly-building traffic to build up their infrastructure; the HHS Dept. had to guess at how much traffic they were going to be hit with all at once...and, more importantly, as someone else noted in an earlier comment on another thread, I'm sure they were assuming at the time that more states would be running their own exchanges (after all, the GOP is always screaming about "states rights" and all). Thank God both New York and California are running their own.

Actually, now that I think about it, assuming that the wording of the ACA law permitted it, it would've made a lot more sense to roll it out more slowly--say, 1 state per day.

Hell, if they'd gone alphabetically, they would have been able to ramp it up slowly with smaller states for the first week or so. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona and Arkansas are all small states...California, Colorado and Connecticut use their own state exchanges...Delaware is small...which means they would have had a week before Florida kicked in.

Then again, that would have also opened up the law and the exchanges to all sorts of additional legal and political nonsense; think about the idiocy we go through every 4 years with states scrambling to be the first ones to hold their presidential primaries...

Update: Thanks to Fake Irishman for alerting me to this article at the Washington Post, which tries to compile the initial signup data so far:

Health insurers and individuals began reporting a trickle of enrollments in the new online marketplaces created by the health-care law, as federal and state officials scrambled to try to fix technical problems that have prevented many consumers from buying coverage.

The White House has declined to release any national statistics on sign-ups, saying complete information was not yet available.
Cigna, which is selling plans on five state marketplaces, began getting enrollments Wednesday night.

“Most of day one and two we didn’t see enrollments,” Cigna spokesman Joe Mondy said. “But we’ve been able to start getting enrollments as of last night.”

Mondy confirmed that Cigna has received enrollments in Florida, one of the states where the federal government is running the marketplaces.
“It’s definitely working,” said Mario Molina, chief executive of Molina Healthcare., which is offering plans in nine states, including several on the exchange being run by the federal government. “I know people have been having difficulty accessing Web sites, but I am told by staff that they were able to get into every state Web site. It’s working.”

Also, in some cases the companies themselves are reporting plenty of printed applications...which they're waiting to submit to the website until things clear up a bit:
Maginnis said that insurance applications were beginning to pile up on brokers’ desks across the state, as they waited for the online marketplaces to get up to speed before submitting the documents electronically.

“We have been accumulating a lot of paper,” he said. “They’ll be submitting those electronically. They’re being held in queue right now.”

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Comment Preferences

  •  if they are not able to start (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    clearing that traffic by getting people signed up, they will start to clear traffic by people giving up.

  •  But...But...But......n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  I'd like to see some stats (5+ / 0-)

    how many have signed up, etc. Not asking you to do it, but if anyone has a link, I'd appreciate it.

  •  Hey Wait Just A Darn Minute..... (8+ / 0-)

    I thought everyone hated Obamacare.

    I can't resist tuning into FOX every once in a while, just to see the scramble.  They report the glitches & the shutdowns......due to millions of people checking Obamacare out.

    Operators say the first day included desperate people, some in tears, as they searched to find affordable healthcare for themselves & their families.  One man had to wait 3 hours to get his application processed, but he saved $6000.00.  He said "I would have stayed on 24 hours if I had too."

  •  Scaling for something of that size (9+ / 0-)

    is very difficult, especially when you're going to be crushed on day 1.

    The fact that they are depending upon all those back end APIs makes it a zillion times harder. Not only do they not control the other hardware, but the servers are not co-located so you have the potential for network latency to create trouble as well.

    There's a lot of messy back-office they're trying to smooth together into that front end to make it easy and pleasant for the end-user.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 11:18:07 AM PDT

    •  We should have had the DK team do it. (4+ / 0-)

      The rollout would have been much smoother :-)  

      The thing about quotes on the internet is you cannot confirm their validity. ~Abraham Lincoln

      by raboof on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 11:41:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for that info, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and an off-topic question, if you have time. Is the cookie we must use to interact here,, one of those back end APIs?

      I've read that over time Google collects info about us from that cookie. Do you know if that's true? If it is, would it be possible (and practical) to use something different in a later DK version?

      The reason I ask is that I've watched persons become commodities, especially over at least 30 years or so. It creeps me out to be a product for some corporation, but several times a day, I have No-Script temporarily allow it so I can come here to my favorite blog ;)

      Just wondering.

      "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

      by cotterperson on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 12:59:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I want it, but haven't even tried yet... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brainwrap, ROGNM, itskevin

    Coverage doesn't start till January... I don't understand this stampede or the wailing and gnashing of teeth...

    I plan on giving it a couple of weeks and then seeing what is available...

    A mind like a book, has to be open to function properly.

    by falconer520 on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 11:45:54 AM PDT

  •  Even in a perfect Tubes, health insurance (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brainwrap, BachFan

    is a major purchase and nearly everyone should be kicking tires now, not jumping in and buying the first policy they come across.

    We've got over two months to make an educated decision and still have our policy in place by January 1st.

    Notice: This Comment © 2013 ROGNM UID 2547

    by ROGNM on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 11:49:14 AM PDT

    •  Yeah but you have to apply to see anything (0+ / 0-)

      You can't learn anything about the offerings until you make a full and formal application.  That's a lot like the old way.

      Ideology is when you have the answers before you know the questions.
      It is what grows into empty spaces where intelligence has died.

      by Alden on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 01:04:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  are you sure? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        That's not the way it works in RI -- you can browse by putting in just a few basic facts, without going through the long form application.

        •  Doesn't Rhode Island have its own exchange? (0+ / 0-)

          I think Rhode Island is one of the states that built its own exchange.  Georgia is on the federal exchange.

          But I got my ID verification uploaded today.  The final hurdle should be waiting for someone to verify it and set my bit so I can go further.

          I already found the plan data on an external site.  The new options are maybe 20% better than our grandfathered plan, though not necessarily after we factor in the grandfathered pre-tax dollars versus Obamacare post-tax dollars we'll spend to meet the deductible and out-of-pocket.  That's nothing like the 50% reductions we're hearing about in blue states.  But I know the insurance commissioner in Georgia did everything he could to put stumbling blocks in the way of companies submitting low-price plans.  You'd think that having opted out, Georgia and similar states would get zero say in what rates companies can offer, but apparently that hasn't been the case.  

          Ideology is when you have the answers before you know the questions.
          It is what grows into empty spaces where intelligence has died.

          by Alden on Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 01:51:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, but... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brainwrap, countrycat, BachFan

    I would not be nearly so persistent with any other site if it were not a must-do.

    After spending 20 hours over 4 days trying to get somewhere in the Georgia section, today I finally got all but the ID verification done.  The program is requiring incorrect data that does not correspond to anything on any of my three major credit reports.  Then it went back to giving some of the old errors.  I successfully created the account, populated the profile, and completed the application (pending ID verification) but now I'm back to getting the old last-ditch text server error messages or blank screens preventing login -- the messages developers don't actually expect to appear, may not even recognize, and the kind no user is ever supposed to see outside a testing environment.

    I understand the capacity problems, but it's worse than that.  For instance swapping the labels on phone numbers #1 and 2 in my state, which sounds minor until you try to receive a text message on a land line.  How many tens of thousands will fail to notice and fail to receive notifications?  For instance an error message that tells you your 47Kb upload file exceeds 10MB where the real problem is on their server, probably a full upload area.  In fact, I'd say 80% of the messages I saw for anticipated errors were incorrectly descriptive.

    If this thing were a space shuttle, there's no way I'd set foot on it.  

    Hopefully the insurance companies offering the plans are better prepared for this onslaught.

    I don't know when the tide will turn negative on overall public reaction to  this implementation.  There's a lot of good will to use up first.  But the race between debuggers and public opinion is on.  

    Ideology is when you have the answers before you know the questions.
    It is what grows into empty spaces where intelligence has died.

    by Alden on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 01:02:00 PM PDT

    •  having the same problems (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Although I haven't even gotten that far in the process in 4 $%^% days.

      But if I complain, my progressive friends tell me to shut up and clap louder.

      That's getting old.  as are the server errors.

      Yes. There ARE progressive Democrats in Alabama. Visit with us at Left in Alabama

      by countrycat on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 04:05:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  sometimes a cigar is just a cigar (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        sometimes .. a website is not the best ... it is not like we close our internet account because some site is bad ... you just surf it later it only has to work once

        •  But it sure plans into the hands (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          These preventable problems (elementary programming logic, etc) sure play into the hands of the critics and saboteurs.  We're the believers, after all.  How much patience can one demand of a skeptic?

          I'll grant some degree of pass on the load testing, but the logic testing is nowhere near comparable to a good commercial site.  What I've encountered on is more like what you'd see on some of the Georgia state government sites.

          I hope to hell they do a good job of fixing the logic bugs and error handling this weekend, but they've only announced what -- 12 hours (3x4h) offline?

          This was a critical rollout and a serious stumble.  It's a recoverable stumble but it just leaves that much less room for any further problems to be forgiven by the skeptics and undecideds.

          Ideology is when you have the answers before you know the questions.
          It is what grows into empty spaces where intelligence has died.

          by Alden on Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 02:02:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  USA Toady Said The Site Should Transfer Some (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    work to Cloud.  I am not a computer wiz, but the IRS does this and it makes sense that the government site for ACA should do the same.  I hope they are listening.

    "Don't Let Them Catch You With Your Eyes Closed"

    by rssrai on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 01:08:35 PM PDT

  •  Two insurance companies ago I had to set up (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    splashy, countrycat, BachFan

    an online account and do most of our stuff with that insurance company on the website.  This was an employer provided private health insurance company.  

    The best word I can find to describe it was "byzantine."  It was really awful and needlessly complicated.  Each layer or page had to be accessed with your password.  Families could not share a password (each member's account--even children's--had to have a separate password).  You could not click from screen to screen, but rather you had to return to the homepage and begin each task from the very beginning.  If you made a "wrong turn,"  there was no way to go back.  Seriously.  No way to back up.  You had to return to the home page and start all over.  

    Talk about frustrating.  I became convinced that the poor website was a feature not a bug, though, after trying to talk to a real person in meatspace.  That was worse.  (Oh...forgot to mention that the website did not post a help number anywhere. Because there wasn't a help number.)

    Many Righties are gleefully claiming this as an example of "government inefficiency," but my experience with private companies has almost always been just as horrid.  

    The question we need to ask these Rightwingers is how outraged they would have been if their precious tax $$ had been spent on glitzy websites while the basic medical programs themselves were precariously underfunded?  

    Metaphors be with you.

    by koosah on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 01:21:03 PM PDT

  •  Heck, my app got hung up for a bit by Experion! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan, petral

    Apparently they are using credit bureau systems to do part of the Marketplace identity verification to set up our accounts. I answered three of the typical multiple choice credit bureau ID screeners -- address I used to live, etc. I hit enter and got a big red uh-oh message that there was a problem on Experion's end. So it's not just IRS and SSN databases the Marketplace has to interface with... this is one complex mother! Luckily I waited for a couple minutes, clicked the verify button again and it went through.

    The Marketplace site is still hinky in odd places so I will wait a few days to go back in to finish qualifying my tax status and select my plan. And it does indeed seem to help if you clear your 'temp internet files' cache before logging in again, otherwise you may get a 'sorry you can't create multiple accounts' error.  

    The live chat folks are quite knowledgeable (you may have to wait a couple minutes to get connected) and calming, even if their advice is to clear cache and try a couple hours later.

    When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.

    by CoyoteMarti on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 03:58:45 PM PDT

  •  Some of us need time to make a decision (0+ / 0-)

    I went on, started an application, and looked at all the options -- now I need to step back and think about high deductible vs. higher premium and all that. I'm the same way shopping for a fridge or anything else -- do a bunch of research, then let it sit and mull it over as I'm walking to the bus or whatever, before I'm ready to commit.

    I had done one of the pre-launch estimators, and have to say the actual premium numbers are much better than the estimates.

    So don't worry, I'll be back to finish it up, just not for a few days.

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