NEW YORK -- How times have changed since Victoria's Secret tried to broadcast its Spring Fashion Show over the Internet more than six years ago.
Victoria's Secret couldn't handle all the pairs of eyes that wanted to see supermodels in racy lingerie. Many visitors saw jagged video or nothing at all.
But the company learned and added capacity the next time around, as did others who have since tried to webcast big events.
Fast-forward to 2005: America Online Inc. broke its own records -- and possibly all Internet records -- in delivering seven separate feeds from Saturday's Live 8 concerts -- all without any meltdowns.
Call it a milestone in the maturity of streaming video, AOL's ability to show the global concerts live.
Web companies now set up excess capacity and can distribute content from computers around the world to reduce bottlenecks.
AOL also managed to make the experience compelling, said one fan, Maria Miceli, a Westlake, Ohio, office manager who switched off the MTV coverage because she felt it focused too much on its hosts and too little on the actual music.
Miceli particularly liked the ability at AOL to switch among different feeds from London, Philadelphia, Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Toronto and a separate global feed that included footage from four other venues.
The ability to give control to users -- not a television director -- is what gives the Internet an edge over television and radio, said James Bankoff, AOL's executive vice president for programming and products.
Bankoff says AOL expects to increase its video offerings -- it's making preparations, for instance, to webcast the resumption of space flight this month.
Bill Wilson, senior vice president for AOL programming, said the company has had much practice, given the concerts it webcasts weekly, and even made arrangements for the Live 8 shows for outside providers to supplement AOL's internal capacity, though the need didn't arise.
Still, the peak of 175,000 simultaneous users -- reached at about 6:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time Saturday -- was a record for AOL. Its biggest events to date had involved streaming from the ''Big Brother" reality television show and events related to Pope John Paul II's death, but none exceeded 100,000 streams at once, Wilson said.
Speedera Networks, now part of Akamai Technologies Inc., reported handling 132,000 streams at its peak on Feb. 8 for Chinese TV's Chinese New Year celebration.
Victoria's Secret, meanwhile, prepared for up to 500,000 viewers at once for its heavily hyped 1999 webcast, but it's not clear how many were able to view it before technical problems arose.
Overall, AOL said it had 5 million unique viewers on Saturday, some of whom watched multiple streams.
Internet video may have matured, but more can be done, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group.
Although more than half of households now have broadband connections, Enderle said relatively few have computers attached to their TVs, meaning people can't yet watch Internet programming on large screens.