Something happened to the Web yesterday. To quote CNN, how many people does it take to break the Internet? Just one. Michael Jackson.
Once the news of MJ’s death hit the web, the number of people who shot over to Google, Twitter, Facebook and Wikipedia went through the roof and the activity kept climbing until a lot of the key sites crashed. Here are some of the highlights from the surge of web activity, followed by a brief tribute.
— The gossip site TMZ – which broke the story – reported several outages throughout the afternoon yesterday, as did Perez Hilton’s site.
— The LA Times also reported several outages as it was the first major media outlet to confirm Michael’s death.
— Google News halted searches across the board a reported three times and searches for “MJ death” or “Michael Jackson” often stalled out entirely.
— At its peak, Google Trends rated the Jackson story as “volcanic.”
— CNN reported a fivefold rise in traffic and visitors in just over an hour, receiving 20 million page views in the hour the story broke.
— Twitter saw so much activity, the micro-blog had to disable its search results, saved searches and trend topics and the site failed many times yesterday afternoon. This, of course, caused a lot of grief for the protesters and civilians in Iran who were suddenly unable to access the site that has been their life-line to the rest of the world: FoieGrasie posting, “Irony: The protesters in Iran using twitter as com are unable to get online because of all the posts of ‘Michael Jackson RIP.’ Well done.”
— In fact, 30 percent of all Tweets yesterday were about Michael Jackson. 30 percent…of all tweets!
— Wikipedia saw close to 500 edits made to Jackson’s entry in less than 24 hours and soon the site reported that page to be “temporarily overloaded.”
— AOL’s instant messenger was down for around 40 minutes yesterday afternoon.
— And, the number of user updates within Facebook went through the roof. I admit, this is where I spent most of my afternoon sharing videos and remembrances.
The figures are still coming in as to mobile activity. Although, AOL consumer adviser Regina Lewis, told CNN that the day should prove an historic milestone for mobile internet traffic because the news came when most people were at work. “It could go down as the biggest mobile event in history. People wanted to keep tabs on this story, but if you’re an accountant you’re supposed to be working on your spreadsheet. So they were using their personal cellphones to do so,” she explained.
So, once again, the King of Pop breaks a new record – with his death.
On a personal note, I know Michael Jackson led a highly controversial and rather tragic life. But, for me – his music was the soundtrack of my childhood. I remember I had this little record player I kept next to my bed at night. And, at five years old, I’d lay there playing “Ben” over and over and over again. Somewhere my parents have Super 8 footage of me and my brother and sisters dancing to “ABC” and “Rockin’ Robin.” (I wanted desperately to call ourselves “The Jones 4,” but my brother and sisters weren’t having it!)
In my house, music was the thing…and Michael was the man. Mom always called him “the Michael.” On the night he was to give his incredible Motown performance, I was banned from TV for one thing or another. I distinctly remember pouting in my room – knowing it was going to be amazing, and then the pure joy I felt when mom knocked on the door and said, “honey, ‘the Michael’ is coming on – are you coming down?” Even being grounded was no excuse to miss one of his performances in my family. (For the record, we had the same policy for Mr. Ray Charles).
I don’t know anyone above thirty who doesn’t remember where they were when “Thriller” premiered. My friend Patrick told me last night, he was in a bar – a real beer drinking kind of bar, he said. And when the “Thriller” video came on, he said the entire bar got quiet as everyone watched. This was the impact Michael Jackson had on people. Regardless of the tragedy that became his later life, his talent captivated us all and I think he would have loved that his death broke a new record when it broke the Internet.