Astronaut John Glenn may have escaped the Earth's pull Thursday afternoon, but his flight left many Internet users feeling like they were sitting in the middle of rush hour traffic. The flight, which saw former astronaut Glenn return to orbit for the first time since 1962, caused record traffic figures on news sites and other services offering up live video of the event.
Pages on those sites could take a minute or more to load -- if they loaded at all. CNN reported that, at around 11:15 a.m. PT, just before the shuttle's launch, their site was experiencing its highest traffic ever, with 494,000 hits per minute. Its previous high was set in September, when Kenneth Starr's report on his investigations into President Clinton was released via the Internet. At its peak, the Starr report generated about 340,000 hits per minute on CNN.com. "The sites were serving 45 percent higher than their previous recorded high," said CNN representatives in a statement Thursday.
CNN experienced a record 34 million page views during the Sept. 11 event, but could not forecast what the final numbers would be for Thursday.
Other sites, such as MSNBC, served pages more slowly than usual. During the launch, MSNBC gave some users "Server too busy" errors when they tried loading a new page.
Broadcast.com, which offers streaming video, said its traffic also surpassed the levels generated by the Starr report.
Because of the Internet's structure, however, the high traffic levels did not affect the Web in general.