RealTime IT News

Michael Jackson Death Spurs Web Slowdown?

Scattered reports indicate consumers had trouble accessing some popular news sites and Web services as the race to get information on the death of pop star Michael Jackson accelerated.

TMZ, a popular celebrity gossip Web site, broke the story that Jackson had suffered a cardiac arrest after a tip-off that paramedics had visited the singer's home.

Numerous blogs and industry sites reported users had trouble accessing TMZ, Google News and the popular micro-blogging site Twitter, which pushed out its infamous "Fail Whale" to indicate when the site wasn't accessible. But whatever the performance problems were, they appear to have been resolved, at least based on recent visits to those sites.

According to the unofficial Facebook site, All Facebook, Michael Jackson's Facebook Page experienced a surge in visits after news of his death spread around the Web. All Facebook, which tracks Facebook usage, said Thursday that Jackson's page appears to be attracting around 20 fans a second and could quickly become one of the top pages in all of Facebook.

The site's wall has become a virtual memorial to Jackson.

The death also caused Twitter to crash at least once and run very slowly for some time. Ethan Zuckerman, a co-founder of Tripod.com and now a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, observed that his Twitter script sees "roughly 15% of all posts on Twitter mentioning Michael Jackson. Never saw Iran or swine flu reach over 5%."

Web slowdowns are nothing new. Some observers have predicted the onset of new media types, particularly video, but also images and sound, will overwhelm the infrastructure of the Web leading to downright outages. But so far, the Web has proved (largely) resilient.