Michael Jackson's Death Tests Web Infrastructure

By June 26, 2009 Drop a comment

I was at Structure 09 without a laptop all day yesterday, so I was shocked when I returned to the office and found out about Michael Jackson’s death. The news was stunning enough, but what really astounded me is that my Facebook stream had suddenly turned into Twitter. For the first time I can remember, more than 90 percent – almost all, in fact – of Facebook status updates, which had tripled in frequency in response to the news, were about the same thing. Indeed, MJ’s death had one of the more profound pop culture impacts in internet history. Om Malik, host of yesterday’s Structure conference, put some numbers and graphs culled from Keynote Systems and Akamai together for an article he wrote for Gigaom this morning about the spike in traffic so massive that it almost shut down ABC, CBS, LATimes, AOL and CNN Money.

Malik also notes the irony that the news broke as a Structure 09 panel composed of senior IT people from Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Microsoft, LinkedIn and MySpace were discussing how they maximized their sites' performance, as MJ news defnintely tested Web infrastructure.

Twitter traffic rose to level not attained since Obama’s election in November: co-founder Biz Stone said the microblogging site’s traffic was double its normal volume after the news broke. And there were so many “Michael Jackson” search requests that Google News' software interpreted it as an attack, requiring users to fill in captcha boxes to complete the search.

Torrentfreak reports that Jackson torrents and Amazon sales have also surged. On one popular torrent site, Michael Jackson is the number two search term, more popular than Transformers and The Hangover.

As during every event like this, attackers also took advantage of the situation, sending Trojan-laced spam offering links to MJ videos. Hopefully Habitat didn’t use MJ hashtags to advertise its furniture on Twitter, as the British retailer recently did with #Iran and #Mousavi.

And finally, as is often the case these days, the death was yet another instance of new media beating traditionals to the scoop, as TMZ broke the story at 5:20 p.m. EST, which I’m sure set #onlywecanfactcheck on fire.

Jackson news has largely been a tabloid matter in the last fifteen years, so it was beautifuly amazing to see him remembered this way -- from the guy singing his songs in the train, the cars blasting his music in the streets downtown and the streams all over 2.0 -- a people's eulogy filled with such respect, dignity and gratitude for the many things he left us.

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