Sites such as CNN.com and Broadcast.com, which distributes Internet video, reported record numbers of visitors Thursday. But they paid a price: Most of the sites served Web pages sluggishly, or even greeted users with "Server too busy" messages.
Caught by surprise
"We ran into some problems," said Mark Cuban, Broadcast.com's (Nasdaq:BCST) CEO. "When you're expecting a busy day, you can add on servers and get ready for it. We weren't expecting it to be that busy, so some people got bumped off at first, but as we added servers, we solved that problem."
Broadcast.com had not yet compiled final traffic figures by Friday afternoon, but said over a million unique visitors viewed the site's video of the shuttle launch Thursday.
Cuban said the site had probably topped its previous record for visitors, set in September when Kenneth Starr's report on his investigations into President Clinton was posted on the Internet.
CNN.com reported that at around 11:15 a.m. PT, just before the shuttle's launch, the site was experiencing its highest traffic ever, with 494,000 hits per minute. Its previous high was set at the Starr report's release, which had approximately 340,000 hits per minute at its peak. The day the report was released, CNN received a total of 34 million page impressions, or downloads of complete pages.
So many people came to see John Glenn's return to space, in fact, that providers hosting overflow traffic for CNN.com apparently failed to deliver the video to some users.
CNN vice president Monty Mullig responded to user complaints about the disrupted video with a statement that CNN.com's overflow partners "may or may not have been able to meet the demand" for live video streams.
He said CNN is still reviewing the data about the failure to meet demand.
Other sites, such as MSNBC, served pages more slowly than usual across the site. During the launch, MSNBC gave some users "Server too busy" errors when they tried loading a new page.
InterVu Inc. (Nasdaq:ITVU), which hosted some of the video streams for CNN.com, MSNBC, Lycos and others, said that several of its client sites went offline because the traffic overloaded their hosting service providers. InterVu declined to name the sites.
PSINet, which hosts the shuttle.nasa.gov site, said the site received over four million hits during the launch event. The NASA site also hosted live video of the launch.