Crowds watch inauguration with their Facebook friends

Facebook and CNN team up to let people watch and chat online at the same time.

In a somewhat new twist to social networking, a lot of techies watched Tuesday's inauguration of President Barack Obama with all their Facebook friends.

No, they didn't meet up at a local pub to watch on a wide-screen TV. In this case, CNN and Facebook teamed up with what observers are already calling a wildly successful inauguration day venture . The two media companies collaborated on an application that has been enabling Facebook users to watch the inauguration while communicating with their Facebook friends at the same time.

And according to insidefacebook.com, more than 1 million people had updated their Facebook status through the CNN.com Live Facebook feed as of 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The website also reported that there were 8,500 status updates the minute Obama began his speech and 4,000 status updates every minute during the broadcast.

"I think it was a tremendous catalyst to show some of the things social networking can do," said Allen Weiner, a research vice president at Gartner. "It was a thing of beauty. It was easy to use. The TV window never overwhelmed the conversation but it provided context. Social networks work when you have something to talk about - from the size of Aretha Franklin's hat to the content of what Obama was saying."

Inauguration day was a big day for social networking sites in general.

Tuesday's ceremony had people flocking to social networking sites, like Twitter and Tumblr, to comment, share and take in the reaction of people around the world. Instead of sitting and watching, people could be virtual historians, reporting in from the actual event or recounting reactions around the globe. For instance, at its peak Tuesday, Twitter had five times as many tweets per second as usual, according to Biz Stone, co-founder of the micro-blogging site.

Caroline Dangson, an analyst at IDC, called the Facebook/CNN collaboration a clever way to enable people to contribute during a historic event.

"I was on the Twitter site but I was really drawn to seeing the live event and the comments, like about Aretha Franklin's hat, side-by-side" on the Facebook site," she added. "I was glued to the screen and having that access to Facebook was really convenient for me. I can back to Twitter [later] and see links and comments and photos that people posted."

Weiner said he particularly liked having the tabs on the Facebook page that allowed him to share his comments with his group of friends or with the entire inauguration audience.

"People were interested in and the numbers were impressive," he added. "I'm not sure if this would work with just anything, like TV shows, or if it'll only work with major events."

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
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