flash crowd
n. A sharp and often overwhelming increase in the number of users attempting to access a Web site simultaneously, usually in response to some event or announcement.

Example Citation:
"Among other problems, the approach deals with events like 'flash crowds' on public Internet sites. This is where incidents, such as the US lingerie firm Victoria Secret's Webcast fashion show, or a surge of stock market activity, generates unforeseen activity levels."
—Alison Classe, "A Question of Balance," Computer Weekly, June 24, 1999

This phrase was coined back in 1971 in a novella called "Flash Crowd" by science fiction writer Larry Niven. (If you want to find it, either look for the story collection called The Flight of the Horse, or the collection called Three Trips in Time and Space.) In the story, flash crowds occur when thousands of people teleport to the same place to witness a current social or political event:

The mall riot was the first successful riot in twenty years. "The police can get to a riot before it's a riot," said McCord. "We call them flash crowds, and we watch for them."
—Larry Niven, "Flash Crowd," 1971

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