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Webby Hordes Converge on Social Media as Obama Takes Oath

By Walaika Haskins
Jan 21, 2009 8:43 AM PT

The landmark inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States Tuesday drew an estimated 1.8 million spectators to the Mall in Washington, D.C. Online, many more followed the pomp and circumstance online at their favorite social networks.

Webby Hordes Converge on Social Media as Obama Takes Oath

Facebook teamed with CNN.com to provide simultaneous streaming coverage, while MySpace joined with Hulu and Fox News to bring users streaming coverage of the celebration. LiveStation featured live broadcasts news coverage from around the world, including Arab news channel Al Jazeera, BBC World News, C-SPAN, Euronews, France 25 and Russia Today.

The Twittering Masses

Twitter experienced five times the normal tweets-per-second and about four times more tweets per minute before President Obama took the oath of office at noon Tuesday, according to a blog post on the site. Earlier in the day, users reported very slow load times, and updates were about 5 minutes off. However, Twitter said that it was working to resolve the problem quickly, though users might see some timeouts when trying to access the site. By the late afternoon, those issues had been corrected and the company said it "sailed smoothly through the inauguration."

Facebook reportedly logged more than 1 million status updates, averaging over 4,000 updates per hour. During President Obama's inaugural speech, that number maxed out at 8,500 updates per minute. CNN.com, partnered with Facebook, said it had served some 13.9 million live video streams between 6 am and 11:45 am.

Over at Digg, over 12,000 users shared inauguration-related content. For those seeking a more mobile solution to view the proceedings, a new application available in the Apple App Store, Ustream, enabled users to watch on their iPhone handsets.

Election Night's Lessons

The number of users around the globe visiting news and social networking sites hit a peak of 5,401,205 per minute just as now President Obama's inauguration began, shortly before noon, according to online traffic tracker Akamai.

Akamai said it delivered over 7 million simultaneous video streams at its peak just after noon Tuesday via partners like Viacom, Ustream and Web sites for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

News sites was 40 percent above normal in the U.S. during the ceremony, the organization said..

The millions of people crowding the D.C. area presented challenges for cell phone carriers; their preparations were apparently not enough to completely eliminate spotty coverage throughout the day. Online communication hubs also felt the strain.

"While I did not personally experience major problems, I did hear about reports from others having issues with CNN.com, Hulu, Current, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other Web sites. After Election Night, Web publishers knew to optimize their online services for spikes in traffic on Inauguration Day," Caroline Dangson, an IDC analyst, told TechNewsWorld.

"This amount of traffic on the network created some delays and glitches that are unavoidable," she added.

Large Web publishers work with content delivery network service providers (CDNs) such as Akamai, Limelight and Internap to ensure smooth delivery of media. Smaller publishers may use Amazon's CloudFront, Dangson noted.


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