Updated: Obama Inauguration Rocks the Web

As the traffic numbers pour in, the inauguration of President Barack Obama is shaping up to be a Web video event like no other.

On Jan. 20 CNN.com Live served more than 26.9 million live video streams globally, and 36.7 million streams overall. According to CNN’s internal data, that figure is more than five times the previous record of 5.3 million live streams set on Election Day last year, which at the time was record-shattering.

Though total audience numbers are not yet available, CNN.com Live, which allowed users to select between four different live cameras during the historic inauguration, served a whopping 1.3 million concurrent streams just before Obama’s address. On whole, CNN.com had generated more than 182 million page views on Tuesday.

MSNBC.com also enjoyed a banner day as a result of the inauguration. By 1 p.m. EST the site had delivered over nine million live streams, more than five million on-demand streams and over 80 million page views. To enhance its Web coverage (and possibly boost video usage) MSNBC.com used the inauguration to debut its new Video Explorer tool, which lets users search for and jump immediately to specific moments in a video clips by using language contained in that video’s transcript.

Meanwhile Foxnews.com had delivered roughly five million streams by 5:00 p.m. EST, the most ever during a single day, according to a spokesperson. Yahoo News also claimed its biggest traffic day ever, generating roughly 200 million page views (75 percent of which were photo-related), which topped both Elcction Day and the recent Hudson River plane crash.  

Indeed, while many sites are still pouring over their internal log files to determine just how many folks had viewed the inauguration online, and third parties such as Nielsen and comScore had yet to weigh in, indications are that Obama’s big day had produced the biggest day in the history of online video.

That certainly was true for Akamai, a firm the provides streaming technology and capacity for a variety of major media companies’ Web video efforts, including AOL News, The New York Times, Viacom and The Wall Street Journal. The company, which in recent years has helped CBS make its March Madness on Demand offering one of the largest live video events ever, said the Obama inauguration set a record for concurrent live streaming via its platform: it handled more than seven million active simultaneously streams at around 12:15 p.m. EST today.

“In addition to the historic nature of the inauguration, it is now clear that this event has driven unprecedented demand from a global online audience,” said Robert Hughes, executive vp of Global Sales, Services, and Marketing at Akamai.

Meanwhile, the social side of the Web is also benefiting from the surge of interest in Obama’s first day on the job. Facebook, which partnered with CNN.com to enable viewers to comment on the day’s events using their Facebook status tool, tracked 600,000 such updates as of 1:15 EST, an average of 4,000 per minute during the live Web broadcast. In fact, at the very minute Obama began his speech, Facebook recorded 8,500 updates.

Web users were just as vocal on news sites. As of late Tuesday, AOL News had recorded more than 17,000 comments from users alongside its main story on the Obama inauguration.
In addition, YouTube—which did not carry the event live—was fast become the place to catch short (sometimes pirated) snippets from the inauguration. According to Web video metrics firm TubeMogul, early in the day 3.52 clips were being uploaded on YouTube every minute.

Overall, while the Web audience appears to have turned out in droves to watch and comment on Tuesday’s ceremonies in Washington D.C., the live streaming of the inauguration was not without issues. There were scattered reports of streaming delays on several prominent sites and not every viewer was able to log on when they wanted.

At CNN.com, as demand increased beyond capacity, some visitors were greeted with the following message “You Made It! However, so did everyone else. This message means you’ve got your place in line to join our party. As soon as space opens up we’ll put you through.”

CNN issued a statement saying that for what is likely to be considered a landmark event for live online video, problems were relatively few.

“We built capacity for CNN.com Live to handle well above and beyond what was, to our knowledge, the most viewed live video event in Internet history. Anticipating that this would be a high traffic event concentrated in time, we arranged for a “waiting room” in order to queue people wanting to view as capacity became available without degrading the experience for CNN.com Live’s users active sessions.”

“Judging from CNN.com Live’s experience, the Internet at-large performed pretty well at what’s likely to prove a significant new level of video throughput: another coming of age event for streaming video online.”