It was billed as the moment the world changed - but for some Barack Obama's inauguration as President was also the moment that the media changed. Social networking sites and live internet streaming of the day looked likely to lead to a US internet traffic record yesterday, apparently surpassing even the frenzy surrounding Election Day. Many Americans sitting in their offices bypassed the television coverage and chose live streaming direct to their desks.
Obama has been such an advocate of social media throughout his campaign that it has been reported that he has 'invented an alternative media model' - from his fireside speeches being streamed to youTube to his personal Facebook, mySpace and Twitter accounts. As a result, bloggers, Tweeters and Facebookers alike were out in force for the big event, and they captured the new Mr President every step of the way.
Facebook's collaboration with CNN to broadcast the ceremony with Facebook status feeds on the side was very popular, with 8500 status updates per minute. However demand for the service was such that many users were told to wait until more room freed up.
CNN itself said they streamed to 21.3 million people over 9 hours, with 1.3 million simultaneously at its peak. Issues did arise, due to the sheer volume of users trying to access the site and the unprecedented (and somewhat under-estimated) levels of traffic. Accessing Web sites which carried the swearing-in and speech was difficult if not impossible depending on your connection. There has been criticism of the connection bandwidth available in the States.
Speaking to the NYT, Daniel Wild, a Web Site Editor at NYU said, "I really didn't get to see any of it. Ultimately, I just saw frozen images of sections of what happened." However speaking for CNN, spokeswoman Jennifer Martin responded, "We built capacity for CNN.com Live to handle well above and beyond what was, to our knowledge, the most-viewed live video event in Internet history,".
Akamai Technologies help websites cope with heavy traffic during big events, and at one point said that they were streaming 7 million videos of the Inauguration through their own platform.
But for many, the real star of the show (besides the new Mr President) was Twitter. Despite everybody from Twitter's CEO to Senator McCaskill tweeting their way through the ceremony, updates were still getting through. There were a few messages on the site about Twitter timelines being up to five minutes behind, but this was quickly resolved.
More interesting were the first hand view points that were getting through to Twitter users, from more quirky and personal viewpoints than the official streams were reporting. Twitter CEO Evan Williams sent pictures of his view to TwitPic. Senator Claire McCaskill tweeted constantly all day, with comments ranging from the personal 'Just arrived on podium. Took my breath away. I have never and will never see a more amazing sight' to an example of Twitter as a medium for breaking news, 'My friend Ted Kennedy just was taken away in an ambulance. Convulsions. Please pray for the Lion of the Senate'. The Inaugural Committee updated their page all day with useful information and commentary, and many other users kept their own records of how their days were progressing.
All in all, the Internet played a very significant part in America's big day through news websites and social networks. Newspapers printed extra copies but websites upgraded their platforms. As Obama spoke, millions watched - but millions also tweeted and blogged. America's new President was welcomed by the world's new media. Apt, really.