Whose Death Brought Twitter, Wikipedia, And Other Sites To Their Knees?
Answer: Michael Jackson
In degrees of fame, there is everything from playing a minor role in an almost forgotten sitcom to achieving mega-stardom that brings your name to the households of billions and keeps it there for decades. It was that kind of mega-fame that kept singer and performer Michael Jackson in the limelight up until his last moments and that same mega-fame that led hundreds of millions of people around the globe to turn to the internet for more information upon the announcement of his death.
The public interest in the hours and days after Jackson’s death was so intense that it brought websites big and small to their knees. TMZ, an LA-based celebrity gossip website, officially broke the news and the LA Times picked it up almost immediately—the two websites were almost instantly knocked offline by the massive wave of subsequent traffic.
Google was fielding so many queries for Jackson’s name that engineers there thought they were under a massive—albeit peculiar—denial of service attack. By that afternoon, Wikipedia was experiencing server crashes from the extreme load of tens of millions of searches about the King of Pop, Twitter was temporarily knocked offline, and AOL Instant Messenger experienced so much traffic that the service was buried under the volume of instant messages. Global internet traffic overall was 20 percent higher as the entire waking world searched for all things related to Jackson.
The greater internet is built to survive surges in traffic and catastrophes, and large corporations have beefy hardware supporting them, but half the world simultaneously scouring the internet for information about one of the most famous musicians in history certainly wasn’t in their catastrophe playbook.
Image courtesy of Westlake Recording Studios.