Trends ... Twitter-monitoring site Twist's graph of messages containing "Michael Jackson"
THE death of pop superstar Michael Jackson has led to a massive surge in web traffic and is dominating discussion on social networking sites.
Major websites including Facebook, Twitter and MySpace were reported "moving at a snail's pace" today as millions of people went online to read about Jackson's death.
By 11am this morning news.com.au had seen more than twice as many visitors as it usually does in a full day.
Four of the ten most popular stories on the site this morning were about Jackson.
Of the others, one was about Farrah Fawcett, who today succumbed to a battle with cancer, and one was a report on Patrick Swayze's struggle with the same disease.
On Twitter, five of the ten trending topics were concerned with the pop star's death, including "Rip MJ", "#MichaelJackson" and "Thriller".
Messages containing the word "Jackson" were still being posted to the site at a rate of almost 900 per minute hours after news of his death broke. It was earlier reported they were moving in the tens of thousands per minute.
According to a report on Mashable, tribute posts accounted for almost a third of all messages on the site at their peak.
A search on Google for blog posts mentioning "Michael Jackson" in the last 12 hours returned more than 50,000 results.
Almost all of the most popular keywords on Google this morning were in reference to Jackson's death.
The exception was the name of Jeff Goldblum, after a hoax reporting his death made its way around the web.
As well as on news.com.au, Jackson's death was the most popular story on the sites of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, the ABC, SBS and NineMSN.
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As the news of Michael Jackson's fate unfolded, sites around the Web felt the strain of spiking interest.
On Twitter, the volume of Jackson-related messages – up to 5,000 per minute at peak – put such a demand on the site that it slowed considerably.
“We saw an instant doubling of tweets per second the moment the story broke,” Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote in an e-mail response to our inquiry. “This particular news about the passing of such a global icon is the biggest jump in tweets per second since the U.S. presidential election.”
"Regarding performance," he added, "there were reports of slowness following the spike in activity. It highlighted an opportunity for improvement which we'll be acting on right away."
Online chatterers reported slowness at other social hubs, including AOL’s popular instant message system and at the blog site LiveJournal.
The Los Angeles Times website creaked beneath the weight of the story as well, with nearly 2.3 million page views in one hour, more traffic than during any single hour last Nov. 5, the site’s highest-traffic day.
Facebook saw a frenzy of activity, too. A spokeswoman for the company said the number of status updates during the hour after the Jackson news emerged was triple the average. She said Facebook remained free of performance issues.
Traffic to the leading online news sites throughout North America was at least 20% above average, according to Akamai’s Net Usage Index, which monitors online news consumption around the world.
The intense interest among Web users was evident on sites that track which terms are most popular among users. Phrases such as “Rip MJ,” “King of Pop” and “Thriller” were among the most frequently used on Twitter, and on Google.com, “Michael Jackson died” became the most popular query.
Updated, 7:27 p.m.: A statement from AOL noted the following: “At AOL our AIM instant messaging service was undergoing a previously scheduled software update which should normally prove routine. It proved not to be. There was a significant increase in traffic due to today’s news and AIM was down for approximately 40 minutes this afternoon."
The statement also noted that, "Today was a seminal moment in Internet history. We've never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth."
Traffic to news sites in North America saw a massive spike as the Michael Jackson story unfolded. Times are EST. Credit: Akamai.