Obama crashes Internet on inauguration day

The hundreds of thousands of people watching President Barack Obama’s inauguration online yesterday crashed the BBC’s live iPlayer coverage of the event.

Obama’s inauguration led to a four-fold surge in online TV viewing after broadband Britons tuned in to watch the historic event on their work computers, according to figures released today. The inauguration also set records for web streaming globally…[click continue reading for more]…

The huge increase in streaming traffic came as people logged on to the Internet to watch the live streamed coverage from Washington yesterday afternoon, according to Plusnet, a Sheffield-based broadband and phone provider.

The BBC broadcast live footage on its website using its iPlayer technology. At one stage, the video feed crashed for 30 minutes because of the sheer volume of people trying to access the online coverage.

“The fact that the inauguration happened during working hours indicates that a lot of people without TVs accessed the transmission on the Web from their offices,” said Neil Armstrong, Plusnet’s products director. “The internet played a big part in this election and it’s only natural that people turned to it for coverage of history in the making.”

Plusnet also recorded a three-fold leap in streaming traffic during Obama’s election victory in November.

Armstrong said, “Our figures confirm Obama is the first President to truly embrace the Web. His use of new media to get elected was ground-breaking and he has clearly captured the imagination of the online audience.”

Meanwhile in terms of worldwide viewing figures, the inauguration apparently set a new record for the number of simultaneous streaming-video viewers in the Web’s history, according to content delivery network Akamai Technologies.

About 7.7 million video streams, primarily live, were being viewed at peak time Tuesday, which was at about 12:15 p.m. EST, according to Akamai. The phenomenon was partly as a result of the timing of the speech, with most Americas still at the office and hence more likely to watch on their PCs than their TVs. TV is so 1.0 anyway, right?

“In addition to the historic nature of the inauguration, it is now clear that this event has driven unprecedented demand from a global online audience,” Robert Hughes, Akamai’s executive vice president of global sales and marketing said. “With the inauguration occurring during workday hours in the U.S., we witnessed record numbers of live streams served in support of many leading news businesses.”

Read my recent blog post on Obama’s likely impact on science and technology here.

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