break the Internet

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To overwhelm a web server through organic user-driven demand, such that the server goes offline or is in danger of doing so.

Etymology:

  • Early use of the phrase refers to literally breaking the Internet connection of a single device. It also refers to breaking the World Wide Web or the Internet itself, with the implication that it would be impossible or implausible to do so in most ordinary contexts.
  • A figurative usage of the phrase emerged in the early 2000s. Rather than the Internet or an Internet connection literally breaking, the figurative meaning describes a web server becoming overwhelmed by a surge in organic, non-malicious web traffic. It can also describe a deliberate, malicious attempt to overwhelm a web server, as in a denial-of-service attack or other cyberattack.
  • In the early 2010s, "break the internet" developed a secondary figurative usage in Internet slang. Similar to "going viral", the slang usage refers to behavior that causes a dramatic increase in web traffic or social media commentary, especially when the behavior was ostentatious or controversial. The phrase was famously used on the November 2014 issue of Paper magazine, titled "Break the Internet" and featuring American celebrity Kim Kardashian on the cover. The magazine was not the first to use the phrase in this sense, but it did popularize it.
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“Well furnished Dahlings, don't all rush on at once as you might break the internet, but The Conran Shop has a new website!”

Submitted on January 20, 2019

Additional definitions for 'break the Internet':

break the InternetTo cause a connection to the Internet, or the Internet itself, to malfunction.
break the InternetTo deliberately overwhelm a web server through a cyberattack such as a DDOS, such that the server goes offline or is in danger of doing so.
break the InternetTo do or say something ostentatious or controversial, such that the behavior causes a dramatic increase in traffic to a website or commentary on social media; to go viral.
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"break the Internet." Phrases.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 12 Nov. 2019. <https://www.phrases.com/phrase/break-the-internet_42783>.

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