Michael Jackson kills the Internet

If there was any question about Michael Jackson’s popularity, it was settled last night, when news of his death created strong, in some cases unprecedented, internet traffic.

Some examples:

  • The Los Angeles Times was one of the first major publications to state that Jackson was dead. When CNN mentioned this as a source, the LA Times website was brought down by the traffic influx, receiving over 2.3 million page views in one hour.
  • Twitter went into a 5-6 minute delay. I saw the fail whale for the first time in weeks. TweetVolume reported that more than 65,000 tweets reported on the original TMZ story within the first hour – around 5,000 per minute at peak. “We saw an instant doubling of tweets per second the moment the story broke,” Twitter co-founder Biz Stone told the Los Angeles Times. “This particular news about the passing of such a global icon is the biggest jump in tweets per second since the U.S. presidential election.” Ultimately, updates about Jackson would double Twitter’s update frequency, and the singer currently occupies seven of Twitter’s ten top trending topics.
  • The number of status updates on Facebook was triple the average. Despite this, Facebook remained operable throughout.
  • America Online’s AIM instant messenger product – which was undergoing some minor scheduled maintenance around the time of the Jackson news – was severely impacted by the story and went down for 40 minutes. “Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. We’ve never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth,” an AOL spokesperson said.
  • An edit war on Jackson’s page on Wikipedia ultimately forced the online encyclopaedia to freeze

The New York Times also reports that even google was affected by this flood of traffic:

Even Google had trouble keeping up. Between 5:40 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. Eastern, after TMZ.com had said Mr. Jackson had died, some visitors to Google News “experienced difficulty accessing search results for queries related to Michael Jackson,” a Google spokesman said.

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