Meetup’s massive outage creates chaos for tech hangouts: This is ‘ruining thousands of events’

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 1.29.36 PMIt’s been a rough few days for Meetup.

The popular event organizing site was hit with a massive Distributed Denial of Service attack on Thursday morning, and has been working to stave off attacks since then. While service came back online yesterday, it was soon brought down again, and remains down today. According to a blog post by Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman, the company received an email Thursday morning demanding $300 in exchange for stopping an attack. At the same time, the company’s site was slammed with a DDoS. Since then, the service has been up and down, as Meetup’s engineers continue to play a high-stakes game of Whac-A-Mole.

While this outage may seem like a run-of-the-mill attack, Zac Cohn, a partner at LIFFFT and the founder of the Seattle Hacker News Meetup, said that a Meetup outage will have a significant impact on people’s lives. Hacker News Meetup has an event scheduled for Tuesday, and the outage has prevented members of the Seattle tech community from finding details about it. (More details on the GeekWire Events Calendar).

“Every day Meetup is down, it’s ruining thousands of events where people are potentially meeting new employers, friends, or significant others, are learning new skills or are being inspired to change their lives,” Cohn said in an email to GeekWire. “It’s interesting, and sad, that this attack has the potential to drastically change so many people’s lives in ways no one will ever know.”

According to Brett Greene, the organizer of the Seattle Tech Meetup, he usually receives 150 sign-ups in the last 24 hours before an event. A Meetup outage means that event organizers could have a hard time pulling in attendees, and could be disastrous for people who are trying to coordinate caterer service. The problem is made worse for organizers because there’s no way for them to reach out to people who are in the meetup group without access to the platform.

Brenden West, who runs the Seattle SAP meetup group, said he can’t even schedule his event since he’s been unable to access the site because of the outage.

Zac Cohn

Zac Cohn

“I don’t have a true offline means to communicate with my members and if this continues, my next Meetup will most likely not happen without my Meetup platform for planning and communicating,” Alexander Day, the organizer of the SEAWear Meetup group, said in an email to GeekWire. His next event is slated for March 12.

While he still plans on holding the regularly-scheduled event, Day said that the attacks have halted new user growth for his meetup, which usually gets new members multiple times a week.

Event organizers with their backs up against the wall are stuck trying to figure out how they’re going to manage ticket sales for their events. Thubten Comerford, the organizer of the Portland Tech Meetup and CEO of WePost Media, said that he may have to turn to Eventbrite for his event on St. Patrick’s Day if Meetup doesn’t come back online.

Heiferman said that the company has no intention of negotiating with whoever is responsible for the DDoS, though Meetup will be back up and running soon.

“Please know that while we will not pay the criminals, YOU CAN COUNT ON MEETUP to be stable and reliable soon,” Heiferman said. “We’ll continue to work diligently to restore the site and the apps, to bring back all features, and to minimize the effects of the service outages.”

  • Financial Firms

    So either lots of other sites are paying lots of ransoms or meetup was unprepared in some very important and seemingly fundamental way. This isn’t like when a free service goes down. Organizers pay good money to Meetup and build it into their business model. This is very destructive.