When news of Michael Jackson's death hit the wire on June 25, the Web crumbled beneath its weight. AOL went down in flames. News sites were overloaded with page views. Twitter was smothered by the Fail Whale. So when Jackson's memorial service was announced, the Internet prepared itself for a massive influx of streaming video, tweets, status updates, and more. This time it survived.
As thousands upon thousands of mourners for the King of Pop gathered at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, millions more huddled around computer screens to catch a glimpse of an extravagant ceremony fit for an influential performer. Live streaming video proved to be the a popular method of viewing, with nearly 3 million video streams broadcast online, according to Akamai Technologies, a Massachusetts-based Web content delivery company. Traditional news sites clocked in at 3.9 million visitors per minute.
Overall, global traffic spiked 19 percent during the ceremony. CNN had 9.7 million people watching live video streams and Yahoo had 5 million. The BBC's live stream was tapped 410,000 times.
Twitter users went nuts during the performance, with the top ten most popular topics yesterday all relating to Jackson and his memorial service. The term "Michael Jackson" generated 80,000 tweets per hour. Over in Facebook country, there were 6000 Jackson-related updates per minute.
There was an ebb and flow in traffic during the event as people tuned in and out as the ceremony progressed. Speakers and performers sparked fluctuations in traffic based on who they were, how long they spoke, and their overall popularity. For instance, stream count dropped 20 points when the Reverend Al Sharpton took the stage, and hopped up 40 when John Mayer came to sing. Brooke Shields started with plus 10 but as her speech went on and on, dropped 20. Martin Luther King III clocked in at negative 80.
Though the event was massive and set records, it could not compare with President Obama's inauguration, which, in some cases, doubled Jackson's numbers.