Instagram rival Cara faces crashes and hefty bills from user surge

12 Jun 2024

Image: © OA_Creation/

Cara’s recent growth was unprecedented, but it caused the website to crash and forced the team to work around the clock to keep it operational.

The online art and social media platform Cara has seen a massive boost in popularity in the past few weeks thanks to concerns around Meta’s AI policies – but success can come at a price.

The site grew from roughly 100,000 subscribers at the start of the month to more than 900,000 by 9 June, according to the site’s founder Jingna Zhang. A large amount of this growth has been attributed to the site’s strict stance against generative AI art – a counter to sites such as Instagram and X.

Since Meta plans to use data from its sites such as Facebook and Instagram to train its various AI models, many artists have fled to the safety of Cara. But the sudden increase in users has caused problems for the fledgling website, which has had to work hard to adapt.

On 3 June, Zhang said the site had reached 300,000 users, but that the sudden increase caused Cara to “crash like crazy” and that the team had worked “around the clock to fix the issue”.

The sudden surge for the site also led to a massive bill by Cara’s web provider Vercel, as the site dramatically exceeded its monthly serverless function execution amount. Zhang shared details on 6 June of a notification from Vercel, which showed Cara was billed an extra $96,280 for exceeding this monthly amount.

By 9 June, Zhang said the site was approaching the 800,000 user milestone and that the team was doing everything it could to “make sure Cara keeps going”. The post suggests the site is still dealing with various issues as a result of the user surge.

“Our team and friends have worked on products used by hundreds of millions of people, so while I missed Vercel emails [because] I was heads down putting out fires, rest assured we have the expertise to fix this,” she said on X. “We’re fixing as many bugs as we can, but sometimes in development, more bugs are introduced as things are getting fixed.”

Simon Yeoman, the CEO of hosting service provider Fasthosts, said downtime and unexpected fees can lead to “significant financial losses, reputational damage and diminished customer trust”.

“For businesses, going viral should be a cause for celebration,” Yeoman said. “Yet, social media and portfolio platform, Cara, was left unable to service its new 300,000 users after its website unexpectedly crashed.

“The answer lies in not only finding a website hosting provider that successfully reinforces scalability when required, but also one without hidden costs or a strictly automated customer support team.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic