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Web survives Obama inauguration

Web survives Obama inauguration

Record traffic causes sites to slow, but infrastructure copes well

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President Barack Obama’s inauguration produced an unprecedented surge in Web traffic yesterday.

This caused some sites to slowdown but the Internet as a whole stood up to the strain.

Media, news and US 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.

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.

CNN, which began its Web broadcast at 8 a.m., partnered with Facebook to display "status updates" from members of the social-networking site as they reacted to the events. According to Facebook, by 1:15 p.m., 600,000 status updates had been posted on CNN.com Live, with 8,500 hitting at the minute President Obama began his speech.

CNN.com, which will stream live video until the last inaugural ball ends, had, as of 3:30 p.m., generated more than 136 million page views, and its CNN.com Live section had served up more than 21.3 million live video streams globally, setting a new daily streaming record for itself, a spokeswoman said via e-mail. CNN.com Live estimates it served more than 1.3 million concurrent live streams during its peak immediately prior to President Obama’s inaugural address, she said.

Content delivery specialist Akamai reported delivering record streams and content to its customer sites, such as The New York Times, Viacom and The Wall Street Journal. Akamai delivered a peak of more than 7 million simultaneous streams, most of them live, over its EdgePlatform, at approximately 12:15 p.m., at which time total traffic on its network surpassed more than 2 terabits per second.

Akamai’s Net Usage Index for News, a daily Web traffic report of aggregate total visitors per minute to more than 100 news sites, recorded more than 5.4 million visitors per minute at approximately 11:45 a.m.

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