Steve Jobs' death creates Twitter surge

Twitter traffic hits near-record 6,049 tweets per second as news of Jobs' death spreads

Traffic hit near-record levels on Twitter Wednesday after news of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' death spread.

Leaders in the high-tech industry, as well as Apple fans and non-tech people, took to social networking sites Wednesday night and Thursday to spread the word about Jobs and to share memories and tributes to the man behind the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Around 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday, shortly after news of Jobs' passing was made public, Twitter was handling 6,049 tweets per second, according to Twitter spokeswoman Rachael Horwitz.

"I'm surprised at the number of tweets it got, but I guess I shouldn't be," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at ZK Research. "Social networks are increasingly the de facto place for people to go to when they want to share information. Twitter is perfect for this type of thing."

While Wednesday night didn't set a record for Twitter traffic, it was one of the site's highest numbers of tweets per second ever recorded.

Horwitz noted that early last May, the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden set a record at that time with a peak of 5,106 tweets per second.

When Brazil was eliminated from the international soccer tournament Copa America in July, Twitter saw 7,166 tweets per second. The current record is 8,868 tweets per second, which was set during the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards in August, Horwitz noted.

Shawn White, vice president of operations at Keynote Systems, an Internet and mobile monitoring company, told Computerworld that the surge in Twitter traffic after Job's death was staggering.

"We saw it with the death of Michael Jackson and the inauguration of President Obama. Sometimes sites just get overwhelmed," White said. "The pattern we saw [with Twitter] was that things hummed along pretty normally and then right after the announcement of Steve Jobs' passing, the site slowed."

He noted that the time to access Twitter's homepage for many users went from 3 seconds to 20 or 30 seconds. The site increasingly struggled under the load, with the first error hitting at 8:10 p.m. ET.

Then the availability of Twitter's homepage dropped nearly 40% between 8:50 and 9:05, according to Keynote.

"During that 15-minute period, roughly 60% of Twitter users would have gotten some kind of error trying to get to the home page. And if they got there, it was probably really slow," White said. "But Twitter recovered pretty quickly."

Facebook declined to report their traffic numbers for Wednesday night. Keynote did not detect any site slowdowns or outages for that social network.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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