With thousands of fans gathering today at Los Angeles' Staples Center for Michael Jackson's memorial service, millions more are expected to take to the Internet, in what some analysts are expecting to be "the biggest online event ever."
As news of Jackson's death spread nearly two weeks ago, fans around the world converged on the Web in such droves that the Internet nearly buckled under the strain of all the interest.
Major news, search and social networking sites experienced so much traffic that performance decreased significantly. Some services, such as Twitter and AOL's Instant Messenger (AIM), temporarily shut down.
Given the intense level of online activity on the day of Jackson's death last week, Ben Parr, an associate editor at the social media blog Mashable, believes today's memorial could be the biggest Web event in history, surpassing even the unprecedented Internet activity the day of President Obama's inauguration.
How Will Jackson's Memorial Compare to Inauguration Day?
"I personally believe [today's] memorial will top the response for Obama's inauguration," he told ABCNews.com. "Records will be set."
Not only was Jackson more of a global icon than Obama, that the event is a memorial service may draw a bigger audience, Parr said.
In the hours following Jackson's death, about 30 percent of tweets on Twitter were about the tragedy. And in the week that followed, there were 9.98 million queries for the terms "Michael" and "Jackson" across the top 25 search engines and news and social media sites, according to Web analytics firm Compete.
"Not even Obama had that impact on the Web," Parr said.
Obama's Inauguration Day Set Records for Online Video Streaming
Obama's inauguration was a historic moment not just for the country, but for the Internet. News sites across the Web delivered more live streams of audio and video than ever before, as millions tried to partake in the moment.
But the unparalleled demand for live video also led to an unparalleled decrease in Internet performance. Many news sites, including CBS, Fox Business, NBC, ABC, the Wall Street Journal and NPR, slowed considerably and struggled to deliver all of the live streams.
According to San Mateo, Calif.-based Keynote Systems, between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ET on Inauguration Day, the Internet slowed by 60 percent because of the volume of online video viewers.
The evening of Jackson's death, Keynote observed a similar decline as a crush of fans and mourners looked for information online.
Beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET, the amount of time it took to download major news sites doubled from about four seconds to nine seconds. And the average availability of sites that it monitors dropped from almost 100 percent to 86 percent.
Outages and Bottlenecks Expected for Memorial
Although he expects today's memorial service to put considerable pressure on the Web, Shawn White, senior director of external operations for Keynote, doesn't expect it to match the records of Inauguration Day.
"It will be similar to what we saw with President Obama's inauguration. But I do not think that this will cap that in terms of online coverage," he said. "This will probably be the biggest streaming event since."
Although the unexpectedness of Jackson's death and his international appeal could lead to a demand for more live streams, White said the amount of hype surrounding Obama's inauguration was greater.
But he said he does expect to see some online outages today as news and video sites try to serve up more live streams than usual.
With Obama's inauguration, he pointed out, they had months to prepare. With Jackson's death, they've only had less than two weeks.
Although he expects bottlenecks and sporadic outages, he believes media companies have learned from the setbacks of Inauguration Day and will likely give viewers a better experience than before.
"Incrementally, it gets better every time," he said