Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson falls, and the Internet follows

If you live on planet earth, then you know that the biggest news story this week, doing the rounds on TV stations and in newspapers, has been the passing away of Michael Jackson, the king of pop, who became famous long before the Internet existed, but is probably the biggest global celebrity to be deceased in the Internet age.

And the impact on the worldwide network was profound, as some reports even go as far as saying that “Michael Jackson broke the Internet!”

On June 25, 2009, Jackson's death caused Twitter outages, and pressure on Google servers, whereby “users experienced difficulty accessing search results for queries related to Michael Jackson," according to a Google spokesman. And these searches also brought the Google News server down, and caused havoc to Google Adsense servers worldwide.

At the peak of his death hysteria, Google Trends rated the Jackson story as "volcanic”. But Google was not the only one feeling massive pressure, other sites were ‘faliing’ too and impatient users where moving onto other sites immediately.
TechCrunch.com reported that TMZ, which first broke the news, had several outages, then users switched to Perez Hilton's blog, which also struggled to deal with the requests.

CNN reported that traffic and visitors increased five-fold in just over an hour, receiving 20 million page views in the hour the story broke. Wikipedia saw close to 500 edits made to Jackson's entry in less than 24 hours and the site was "temporarily overloaded." The Los Angeles Times, the first news organization to confirm Jackson's death, suffered outages. The site also reported that AOL's instant messenger service was down for approximately 40 minutes.

Mobile marketers believe people were checking news headlines from work or on the move as the news broke, probably making it a historic and record-breaking day for mobile too.

So not only was the Michael Jackson story drowning out the Iran elections crisis on traditional media, it was also preventing Iranians from using the Internet and mobile to get their word out regarding developments.

Commentators are calling it “a seminal moment in Internet history.” I believe that this incident proves again that the Internet is the ‘barometer’ of public interest, and regardless of varying opinions regarding Michael Jackson, the overwhelming majority of users worldwide have spoken, and the Internet struggled to cope. That’s big news in its own right.



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