Web braces for Michael Jackson onslaught


A fan signs a Michael Jackson poster covered in messages outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles Monday.
His death nearly brought the Web to a standstill with several sites buckling under the sheer weight of traffic.

And Michael Jackson’s memorial service promises to be no different — with media organizations bracing for a tsunami of traffic. Given the feverish interest in all things Jackson, the Los Angeles memorial could be the most-viewed online event of all time. “This will obviously be a huge media event,” said Toni Fitzgerald, of Media Life, in an e-mail interview with CNN. “With Web streams of the funeral, it may be impossible to say for sure how many people watched once all is said and done, because there’s still no comprehensive way to measure Web viewing,” she continued. Blogger Ben Parr wrote on influential social media site Mashable: “The memorial will be a huge test for the entire infrastructure of the web.” He added: “This event will almost certainly shatter records for the biggest single live stream ever, and could be one of the biggest worldwide media events in history.”

Michael Jackson: The Memorial

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And if demand for the memorial tickets is anything to go by, it is highly likely that some sites could struggle with the demand. During the sign-up period for the memorial ticket lottery, the Staples Center Web site took down all non-essential materials to ensure that it coped. Jackson family spokesman Ken Sunshine said the computer servers hosting the registration site counted 500 million “hits” — 120,000 a second — in the first 90 minutes on Friday. About 17,500 fans were randomly selected and will be able to watch the memorial live in the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles at 10am Pacific time.

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However, this is just a small fraction of the 1.6 million fans who applied for tickets. Most of these will undoubtedly turn to media Web sites that are streaming the memorial live. Watch panelists discuss Jackson’s legacy » All of the major sites will likely add servers or strip content as necessary to stay up and running at normal speed. Millions worldwide will tweet and update their Facebook status while watching, some via CNN.com, which will repeat its Obama inauguration collaboration with Facebook, when more than 21 million live feeds were handled by the site. CNN spokeswoman Jennifer Martin said it was difficult to predict whether the Jackson memorial service would displace President Obama’s inauguration as the biggest ever online video event. “On Inauguration Day, we were prepared for significantly higher traffic than we experience on an average day,” said Martin, “but we couldn’t fully predict it would set the record for the largest live video event in Internet history.”

Martin added: “Bandwidth on the Internet isn’t limitless, but we’re doing everything we can to be as prepared as possible, including provisioning for additional live video streaming capacity.” We’ll know for sure later tonight — but it seems that even in death, Michael Jackson could prove once again to be a record breaker.

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