updated: Facebook releases Election Night traffic data. (see below)
Right around the time that Barack Obama was being declared the winner of Tuesday's historic election, an Internet usage record was being broken. At the peak, there were more than 8.5 million visitors per minute visiting news sites around the globe - with more than 7.5 million of those visits occurring from Web connections in North America, according to Akamai. Until yesterday, the busiest day for news sites was June 22, 2006, the day that the U.S. was eliminated from the World Cup by Ghana. Other events on the list include March Madness coverage, U.S. Open coverage and the death of Anna Nicole Smith.
In an unofficial Between the Lines poll, 58 percent of you said you had planned to track last night's election results using both TV and the Internet while 26 percent of you said you would stay informed via the Web only. There were two laptops humming in my household as the TV stayed tuned to election coverage. But here's something to ponder: I had multiple browser tabs open - the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and, for statewide coverage, the L.A. Times and San Jose Mercury News.
The bulk of my time, however, was spent on Twitter and Facebook. At one point before Obama had been declared the winner, I had DVR-paused the news coverage to explain the electoral vote process to my 10-year-old son - which meant we were a few minutes behind live coverage. Interestingly enough, my first alert that Obama has been declared the winner came from a Twitter feed, immediately followed by a friend's Facebook status update.
I'm not saying Facebook and Twitter are replacements for actual news coverage. But as we watched the TV coverage and waited for the concession and acceptance speeches, there was plenty of virtual high-fiving happening on these two social networking sites. Just in my own network, friends were posting pictures, commenting on status updates and chiming in with great frequency. Sitting next to me, my wife was seeing the same thing happening among her network of friends.
According a friend, people have been filling the lobby of the Washington Post building, trying to get a copy of a historic front page issue. Having been a newspaper guy for years, it's nice to know that there are still reasons to pick up a newspaper. But while newspaper Web sites were still on the radar last night, I can't help but wonder if last night's experience says something about the future of news and maybe offers a peek at how the news business will look during the next election - or some other major news event.
updated: Facebook has released some data points about Election Night traffic.
- Overall activity on the site on Election Day was up 20 percent over last Tuesday's traffic, measured by page-views.
- More than 5.44 million people clicked the “I voted” button on Facebook to tell their friends they voted.
- Barack Obama is the most popular page on Facebook, with 2.5 million supporters. Michael Phelps is second with 1.6 million.
- John McCain supporters: 625,000
- Since Sept. 5, McCain has gained 330,000 fans, compared to Obama's 750,000.
- Obama set a single-day growth record for Facebook by adding more than 40,000 supporters on Election Day. Obama added more than 25,000 on the Monday and more than 18,000 on Sunday.
- McCain lost about 300 supporters on Election Day.
There's no doubt that Facebook was a key part of the campaign and election. The company partnered with Rock the Vote in October to register more than 50,000 people. It also posted an Election Day event within Facebook to remind and motivate people to vote. In two weeks, more than 2.4 million users RSVP'd for the event. And, in the days leading to Election Day, there was an average 200,000 wall posts per day related to the election. Obama mentions surged to 1.1 million on Election Day and McCain's jumped went to 280,000. On Election Day, there were more than 2 million election-related Wall posts. More than 2 million election-related virtual gifts were given out.
Finaly, just after midnight on Nov. 4, about 1 million people used the Causes application to simultaneously set their Facebook status with a unified message to remind their friends to vote. Facebook is calling it one of the largest online rallies in history, with more than 1.5 million people participating. So far, 4.5 million status messages have been posted.