Web Traffic Spikes After London Bombing

News and blogs sites in the United Kingdom were hard hit as word of multiple explosions in London Thursday morning had concerned surfers looking for the latest word.

The four blasts, which occurred between 8:51 and 9:47 London time, claimed a growing number of lives, and injured scores more. Officials surmised it was an al’Qaeda-style terrorist attack timed to coincide with the start of the G8 summit in the U.K.

Web site performance firm Keynote Systems tracked the performance and availability of U.K.-based news sites and found sharp spikes in both, making it difficult for readers to connect to the Web sites containing the information.

At one point, Keynote found availability at the sites mentioned had dipped below 80 percent while Web page load times jumped as high as 17 seconds. The performance issues began shortly after the fourth explosion with the reported spikes hitting at 5:40 a.m. EST, or 11:40 a.m. London time, as the first stories started hitting the Web.

Once again the blogs proved themselves an invaluable resource for first-hand accounts and images of the incident, as well as other blog owners who extended their best-wishes to those involved.

In many ways, blogs provided some of the first accounts of the situation, and added a human element that most news stories didn’t deliver. A first-hand account provided at Pfff.co.uk, by an individual named “justin” described the events after the carriage ahead of him exploded:

“I fell to the ground like most people, scrunched up in a ball in minimize injury. At this point I wondered if the train would ever stop, I thought ‘please make it stop,’ but it kept going. In the end I just wished that it didn’t hit something and crush. It didn’t. When the train came to a standstill people were screaming, but mainly due to panic as the carriage was rapidly filling with smoke and the smell of burning motors was giving clear clues of fire. As little as 5 seconds later we were unable to see and had all hit the ground for the precious air that remaining. We were all literally choking to death.”

Technorati.com, the site that tracks more than 12 million blogs, found that nine of the top 10 top searches Thursday involved the unfolding events in the U.K. Images have already begun to appear on Flickr.com, the popular online photo sharing and management site.

The Internet, with its unparalled ability to bring people and events together, has become the primary means of information gathering in the wake of disasters.

Last year, when thousands flocked to the Web after a tsunami devastated many parts of southeast Asia, news sites carried up-to-the-hour data while bloggers set up Web pages for information sharing and first-hand accounts.

Prior to that, the Net drew millions together after the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

In many ways the London attack mirrors the Internet effect experienced after 9/11. The day of the attack, many of the large Web news sites — MSNBC.com, CBSNews.com — experienced page load times so high browsers showed connection errors as if the sites were down.

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