Michael Jackson mourners take to the Web, but don't crush it

No crashes detected so far though Twitter was slowed some under user pressure

Today's massive memorial service for Michael Jackson may have strained some social networking and news sites but it didn't cripple them, as many had expected.

When the self-described King of Pop died on June 25, the Internet staggered under the weight of so many people going online to get information about the performer's sudden death, his music and his life in the media spotlight. With today's memorial expected to draw hundreds of thousands of mourners to the Staples Center in Los Angeles and millions to various online news and social networking sites, gridlock was expected in both the real and the virtual worlds.

But Ken Godskind, chief strategy officer for AlertSite, which monitors Web site performance and availability, reported late this afternoon that most sites held up well under the spike in traffic, though Twitter did seem to struggle a bit.

Godsking reported that the microblogging site showed 82 per cent availability around noon EDT today, and the number tumbled to 50 per cent between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. At 4 p.m., it had dropped as low as 20 per cent.

That means a lot of people trying to log onto the site were timed out before successfully getting in. However, despite the site's problems, all of the top 10 Twitter searchers this afternoon - MJ Memorial, #michaeljackson, RIP MJ and Smokey Robinson -- were regarding Jackson or people speaking or performing at his memorial.

Sites like ABC News, Hulu, Myspace and Fox News successfully ran live streaming video of the memorial. And CNN.com once again paired up with social networking site, Facebook - much like they did for President Barack Obama's inauguration. The two media companies collaborated on an application that enabled Facebook users to watch the inauguration live on one half of the screen, while communicating in realtime with Facebook users on the other half of the screen.

Godskind reported that news sites in general held up very well and only experienced small, intermittent slowdowns in response time. Web application monitoring firm Gomez Inc. also noted that some news sites had intermittent stalling issues with streaming videos but that no crashes were detected.

And Facebook, especially considering its collaboration with CNN.com, reportedly handled the extra load well.

Millions of fans worldwide flocked to Facebook to share their thoughts and feelings about Jackson's death and his music. The Michael Jackson fan page ballooned from less than 100,000 fans before his death to more than 7 million today. And in the last week and a half, the RIP Michael Jackson page on Facebook garnered more than 3,900,000 fans.

Facebook rival Myspace wasn't left out of the action. The site offered live streaming video of the memorial.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
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