Obama Makes Internet History: Inauguration Sets Record for Streaming Online Video

President Obama's inauguration set records for online video viewing.

ByABC News
January 21, 2009, 1:17 PM

Jan. 21, 2009— -- While more than a million people gathered on the National Mall to watch the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama, millions more peered at the screens of office computers and personal laptops, breaking records for views of live online video.

But despite the banner day for online video, the unprecedented demand for a live view of the event meant that some people had to frantically hunt down a television or wait several hours to catch Obama's speech.

"It was really frustrating," Heather Adams, 32, a publicist in Nashville, Tenn., told ABCNews.com.

After trying to access the live feeds on the Web sites of at least four or five media companies, she said she gave up and, ultimately, didn't watch anything until several hours later.

"My hope was to watch even a portion of it live streaming," Adams said, adding that her office had few televisions. "It was history in the making – you want to be a part of that experience … You just miss something when you don't watch it in the moment."

It was that hope – to share a pivotal moment in the country's history – that pushed the Internet to its limits and caused some Web sites to buckle under the pressure.

And in light of the day's successes and setbacks, analysts say the inauguration was a case study for online video and will influence how major live events are covered online in the future.

Shawn White, director of external operations for San Mateo, Calif.-based Keynote Systems, Inc., said that because of the huge demand for live video and audio, his company noted significant slowdowns on major media sites.

CBS, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, the Wall Street Journal and NPR were among the sites that seemed to struggle most with the unprecedented demand, he said.

Keynote monitors the performance of Internet and mobile networks and, White said, their data indicated that between 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ET, the Internet slowed by 60 percent because of the volume of online video viewers.