When you host your website on a shared account like Bluehost, you’re given a certain allocation of bandwidth, disk space, and CPU power. If you go over, they shut you down, which is almost certain to happen if your website makes it to the front page of Digg or Slashdot. (Hence the “Slashdot effect” or “your site has been Slashdotted”.)
We’ve seen this several times at Freemacware.com. Our Bluehost account couldn’t keep up with the “Digg effect” so we’d get “CPU overage” errors. (Turns out Bluehost’s awesome bandwidth and disk space allowances aren’t so hot if the CPU can’t keep up. And they don’t offer any upgrades.) We moved to MacMiniColo.net and things have been much better.
(As an aside, we now have enough readers at Freemacware.com that when we link to small-time web sites, we occasionally cause account overages.)
From the consumer point of view, it’s annoying to find something interesting on Digg and then not be able to read it because the account is maxed out.
When you max out your account, it’s stupid for web hosting companies to show an error message. It’s a lost marketing opportunity. Web hosting companies ought to display an ad touting themselves and a sponsor, and then redirect to your site. For example:
Welcome Digg readers. This web site has used more than its share of bandwidth, but we’d like you to see it anyway. You’ll be redirected in 5 seconds. Brought to you by ACME hosting company and XYZ corporate sponsor.