Inaugurating the Internet

Record-breaking requests slows traffic

How did you witness history Tuesday?

By and large, most people will be able to answer part of the "where were you when" question with five words: I watched it on television.

Roughly a third of the households in the top local television markets watched the Inauguration, The Neilsen Company reported. That could make it the most watched Inauguration since Ronald Reagan's in 1981.

Millions unable to watch Inauguration Day coverage of President Barack Obama on TV turned to the Web, straining some of the most popular sites and setting video viewership records.

Internet traffic in the United States hit a record peak at the start of President Obama’s speech as people watched, read about and commented on the inauguration, according to Bill Woodcock, the research director at the Packet Clearing House, a nonprofit organization that analyzes online traffic. The figures surpassed even the high figures on the day President Obama was elected.

"The peak is the highest measured to date, and it appears to be mostly a U.S. phenomenon," Mr. Woodcock told The New York Times, adding that it did not appear that global records would be set.

According to PC World, among those experiencing significant slowdowns were the sites of ABC, CBS, Fox Business, the L.A. Times, NBC, National Public Radio, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, according to Keynote Systems, an Internet measurement and testing company. Government sites that buckled under the traffic included those of the White House (promptly updated by the new administration), the U.S. Senate and the National Park Service, according to Keynote. Gomez, another Web performance-tracking company, also noticed a performance problem at the National Public Radio Web site.

The viewing troubles may have been more a result of the limited Internet capacity coming to offices and houses, rather than a lack of overall bandwidth from the media companies, Woodcock said. The United States continues to suffer from less-than-robust bandwidth, ranking 19th in terms of worldwide broadband penetration, according to Point Topic, a UK-based company that collects data and reports on broadband information services.

"Traffic is completely through the roof," a CNN spokeswoman said told Computer World. The spokeswoman said the Web site had generated 160 million page views, with 25 million live video streams for the 12 hours between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., beating's previous video stream record of 5.3 million live video streams for Election Day last November. Also, 1.3 million live concurrent streams were served in the critical moments between Obama's taking the oath of office, and his inaugural address.

had the most live stream views to date

, but didn't release official numbers.

And while sitting in front of their computers, many weren't just passive consumers. partnered with Facebook to provide "status" updates pertaining to the inauguration. Early reports from Facebook show that an average of 4,000 Facebook status updates were set every minute during the inauguration. They peaked the minute Obama began his speech, with 8,500 status messages set in those 60 seconds.

Twitter, too, was abuzz.  According to a blog post by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, the rate of "tweets" per second hit as much as five times the normal rate. While there may have been a delay in posting for some users, the site -- often with frustrating downtime -- didn't crash entirely on Tuesday.

On a blog post Tuesday afternoon, Yahoo! provided a sneak peak at inaugural search spikes. According to the company, people were keen to read about "john roberts flub" as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court stumbled slightly on the oath. There were questions about Aretha Franklin (perhaps her hat), and there was some confusion about her name, as many people searched for information on "Anita Franklin." Others searched "Dick Cheney Wheelchair," wanting to know why the former vice president was confined to one.

Contact Us