Michael Jackson story brings Internet to a crawl
The sudden death of pop star Michael Jackson not only stunned his fans; it also staggered the Internet. Major news sites were overwhelmed by so much traffic that many Web surfers couldn't get through.
"We haven't seen this kind of slowdown on our news index in quite some time," said Dan Berkowitz, spokesman for Keynote Systems Inc., a California company that measures traffic at major Internet sites. "It ranks right up there with 9/11."
Berkowitz said that news sites operated by TV networks ABC and NBC, the Los Angeles Times newspaper, and Internet service provider AOL at times turned away 90 percent of Internet users trying to reach them. AOL spokeswoman LaToya Drake said that news of Jackson's death broke just as her company's popular AIM instant messaging network was undergoing a scheduled software update. As a result, the AIM network was completely shut down for about 40 minutes on Thursday.
Shawn White, Keynote's director of external operations, said the social networking site Twitter also took a big hit. People use Twitter to send brief messages, called "tweets," to friends and colleagues. White said that tweets are usually transmitted in about two seconds, but on Thursday, the delay rose to as high as 40 seconds. White estimated that for about an hour, half of those visiting Twitter were unable to send messages.
Still, Jackson's death didn't even make the top 15 Internet news events of all time, according to Akamai Technologies Inc., a company in Cambridge that operates a global network of servers major companies use to speed up their websites. Akamai spokesman Jeff Young said that Thursday traffic to major Internet news sites on the company's network peaked at 4.2 million visits per minute at around 6 pm Eastern time.
This amounted to a major traffic spike, but far below the all-time record of 8.57 million visits per second on January 20, the inauguration day of President Obama. Other news events have also attracted more Internet traffic than Jackson's death. These include the January crash of a US Airways plane into the Hudson River, the 2007 death of Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith, and the 2006 plane crash that took the life of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle. (By Hiawatha Bray, Globe staff -- photo Gerard Burkhart/AFP/Getty Images)