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Psy Nearly Brings Down YouTube with ‘Gangnam Style’

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On HBO, no one dies suddenly. There’s always a moment, one solitary action, for viewers to pinpoint the exact event that lead to a character’s demise. In one of Game of Thrones‘ darkest moments, *SPOILER ALERT* Robb Stark was killed at his uncle’s wedding, but he really died the moment he married Talisa, breaking his vow to the Freys. On The Sopranos, Adriana died the moment she became an FBI informant, seasons before she took a long drive out to the woods with Silvio. On The Wire, Stringer Bell died when he ordered the hit on D’Angelo Barksdale, forever shattering his relationship with drug kingpin Avon Barksdale, who would then go on to betray his location to Omar and Brother Mouzone. *END SPOILER ALERT*

This seemingly innocuous yet ultimately catastrophic moment can happen to websites, too. What if I told you that YouTube was already dead, and that we had all, together, set it in motion the very first time we watched Psy’s “Gangnam Style”?

But relax! YouTube isn’t doomed, but “Gangnam Style” did come close to breaking it. Back when YouTube was being designed, no one could fathom a video garnering over 2 billion views. Therefore, they used a 32-bit integer (a unit of computing data) that can only count up to 2,147,483,647, which is, like, so totally not very high for an integer. I don’t, like, condone integer shaming, but I just think all 32 bit-integers should go home and, like, look at themselves in the mirror. Really decide if storing values is what they want to do, you know?

YouTube caught the problem before “Gangnam Style” broke the counter and brought down the entire site. They’ve since upgraded the counter to 64-bit, so rest easy — all your cat videos and Wes Anderson-versions of movie trailers and 3-hour long responses to Anita Sarkeesian are safe.

YouTube’s 32-bit issue wasn’t dissimilar the Y2K bug, which would have caused computers to fail when they had to process a date that required four digits (“2000”) as opposed to two (“99”). Nothing ever came of Y2K, of course, but a lot of people believed it would be the end of the world, and stocked up on supplies in case society collapsed. Now, YouTube appears to be safe for the moment, but no one threw out their bottled water and canned peaches on January 2nd. There’s no reason not to remain prepared for the collapse of internet video, so consider stockpiling DVDs to be safe. Game of ThronesThe Sopranos, and The Wire are all really good. Just avoid spoilers.


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