The swearing in of U.S. President Barack Obama and the other presidential inauguration activities generated massive Web traffic Tuesday, leading to site slowdowns but not to a general meltdown of the Internet.
With intense and widespread interest in the ceremonies and festivities, especially President Obama's oath of office and inaugural address, millions of people had been expected to tune in online, especially those without TV access while at work.
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Big media, news, and U.S. government sites streamed events live and prepared special sections for the inauguration, yet some were still caught off-guard and experienced performance problems, mostly between midmorning and 12:30 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time.
Among those experiencing significant slowdowns were the sites of ABC, CBS, Fox Business, the L.A. Times, NBC, National Public Radio, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal, according to Keynote Systems, an Internet measurement and testing company. Government sites that buckled under the traffic included those of the White House, the U.S. Senate and the National Park Service, according to Keynote. Gomez, another Web performance-tracking company, also noticed a performance problem at the National Public Radio Web site.
"We predicted today would be one of the most, if not the most, significant online streaming event[s]," said Shawn White, Keynote's director of external operations.
"This was an unprecedented online event. I don't think we've ever seen as many viewers go online to watch an event," he added. "It's difficult to prepare for something that's unprecedented."
"On a positive note, I had heard predictions that the Internet would crumble, which didn't happen," White said.
A group of 40 large Web sites that Keynote routinely tracks also saw, on average, a collective slowdown during the swearing-in ceremony and the inaugural address, likely caused by the demand placed on Internet bandwidth by millions of live video streams, White said.
Interest in Tuesday's events was fueled by a combination of factors. President Obama is the country's first African-American president. In addition, he comes into office trailed by widespread hope that he'll fix the country's economic crisis.
This inauguration was the first since online video became a mainstream activity, so it wasn't a surprise that TV networks like CNN and MSNBC, as well as major newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post, provided live broadcasts on their sites.