Blog Post

UPDATED: Is the Web Breaking Under the Inaugural Strain?

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

Updated throughout: Om just emailed that the web may be breaking under the strain of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, noting that several sites, such as and C-SPAN, appear to be down. Others including Ustream, and MSNBC are still up, so it may be a question of allocating resources on the back-end servers rather than a network problem.

Limelight Networks (s LNLW), a content delivery network, says that so far this morning it has topped over 250 gigabytes per second of network traffic (it can handle up to 2 terabytes per second) during a peak moment. By the end of the day it said it had delivered 2.5 million streams as compared to Akamai’s 7 million streams.  Akamai (s AKAM) noted earlier this morning that daily media streams are up by 596 percent from the usual daily average so far today. We’ll get more data later today on total web traffic from the core network providers, as well as mobile operators currently fielding thousands of text messages, uploads of photos and live streams.

Updated: Sprint emails me to say that its mobile network held up under record traffic so far. Prior to the actual inauguration speech, its network saw a 211 percent increase in activity from the time period between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Eastern. Other mobile providers saw large increases in traffic as well. AT&T said it experienced a 6x increase in texting volumes and a 2x increase in calling volumes in D.C. between 11 and noon Eastern.

Verizon said it experienced 7 times the normal texting volume and 5 times the call volume between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Eastern in D.C. Providers noted delays, but stressed that the networks didn’t fail; text messages still went through. No wonder we pay so much for the privilege of text messages.

For other views on the total traffic loads, check out NewTeeVee’s post on the livestreaming data or telco equipment maker Arbor Network’s view on how U.S. ISPs fielded up to 3.5 terabits of data per second at the peak of the inauguration.

19 Responses to “UPDATED: Is the Web Breaking Under the Inaugural Strain?”

  1. @Andrew and @Dan,

    To your point @Stacey says in the first paragraph: so it may be a question of allocating resources on the back-end servers rather than a network problem.

    And @ Alistair, thanks for the explanation!

  2. In the spirit of new-found mutual respect, I’m gonna say: It’s both.

    Nielsen-level audiences aren’t working on the net, and won’t until we scale to a one-to-many model (sideloading video with P4P or something similar.) At the same time, it’s the messy edges of the network that are breaking many of these media sites.

    One of the promises of online video is personalization, the ability to insert interstitial advertising into video streams that are targeted to a particular geography or demographic. That’s hard to do in the middle, particularly if you’re trying to stream data — it’s one of the appeals of tech like Silverlight.

    Unfortunately, personalization is the enemy of scale. So we’re in a bit of an arms race between increasingly targeted content, and increasingly scalable distribution of video. Sprinkle a demand for higher resolution and season with multi-screen, interactive content, and we’re going to have sub-optimal online video for quite some time.

  3. Why must we go through this every time there is a big-scale live event? GigaOm should know better and not even suggest that the possibility exists that traffic today is “breaking the Internet”. We know this is not the case. The moment a website may not be available, people assume it is because there is not enough bandwidth. Many times, the website did not provision for enough capacity. That does not mean that there is not enough capacity to support it, simply that they did not provision properly or don’t want to pay for it.