Alright, that title was a little sensational. But only a little. The King of Pop was mourned yesterday at a ceremony that was more widely viewed than the memorial services of any real king who has ever lived. Gigaom reports that Akamai delivered over 2,185,000 live/on-demand streams today, and that total traffic on their network exceeded 2 terabites per second during the service itself.
At the peak today, news sites received close to four million viewers per minute, and an average of 3.3 million visitors per minute over the course of the day. It's clear now that both Michael's death, and his memorial, have been among the most significant events in the history of the Internet so far. Despite that, most sites didn't notice a significant slowdown in their loading speeds. Lag was most pronounced for people overseas who attempted to stream the event.
As much respect as I have for the King of Pop, his fame isn't entirely to blame for the massive numbers we're seeing here. Michael was famous and beloved around the world and the world is now more connected to the Internet, and especially to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, than ever before. More people now have smartphones as well, and that's probably had a substantial impact too.
This is the most connected time in the history of our species, and Michael Jackson was the first world-famous figure to die during it. If we'd had iPhones and Twitter during Princess Di's memorial the same thing probably would have happened. People need to commiserate during times of grief and shock. They always have, and they always will. The Internet just gives us a chance to share our sorrow (and our appreciation) on a greater scale than ever before.