Live On Line

Live coverage of several major events has made the Internet an even more crowded place over the last few months.

As ever, the major sporting events have been drawing many visitors. The Test Matches were ably covered by the team at Cricinfo, who provided live coverage over IRC (Internet Relay Chat) as well as scorecards and ball-by-ball coverage on the Web. Their archives include information about past Tests, county matches, foreign matches -- in fact everything one might want to know about cricket and its history. The strong British performances at Wimbledon meant that the official site of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, hosted by IBM, saw very heavy traffic; response times for the UK site slowed noticeably during the matches played by Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski. Services included current scores, archives of pictures, articles and previous scores, and NetCam - pictures of the current action on the show courts. An unofficial site at did not seem to be updated as frequently.

The handing back of Hong Kong to China also received a lot of online attention. Apart from the news articles in the media, several sites were offering live countdowns to the handover and picture feeds from various sites around Hong Kong. Conveniently, the handover occurred during the daytime in the US and the UK, giving even more traffic.

The Mars Pathfinder mission has put NASA's Web site in the spotlight. They set up mirror sites around the world to cope with the enormous amount of visitors, especially those on July 4th during the countdown to the landing and the several-hour pause before it was known that the landing had been a success. To encourage visitors to use the mirror sites, the information on the NASA site itself was delayed by two minutes; people desperate to know the up-to-date information had to go elsewhere. This is an unorthodox tactic, but probably the only way to save the NASA site from being a victim of its own success and collapsing under the load! The traffic levels have stayed at very high levels both through the 'official' 30 day mission and beyond -- millions of people have been interested in the pictures and data sent back from Pathfinder. Coverage of the Mars Global Surveyor mission is also now available through the NASA site.

Finally, during the first week in September, the traffic to the Royal Family web site -- previously highlighted in Blazon 13 -- reached new peaks. Even in the middle of the week at times which would normally be considered off-peak, access was either slow to the point of pain, taking minutes at a time, or completely unavailable. Network providers also reported unprecedented levels of traffic to sites providing video feeds of Diana's funeral, especially in the US (presumably UK residents were watching the TV instead). Transatlantic bandwidth was being very heavily used, especially for what was an early morning in the Eastern US and the middle of the night in the Western US.

It's interesting to note that sites covering major events such as these do not necessarily have to provide video or audio feeds to attract high numbers of visitors; the cricket coverage is text-only, the Wimbledon sites mostly so, and the Mars Pathfinder sites likewise -- to be fair, live pictures from Mars would have been a little tricky...

AELTC Wimbledon site:

Hong Kong sites:
Intel Handover Site:
South China Morning Post Handover Site:
China Internet Corporation site:
Hong Kong Government Information Centre:

Mars sites:
NASA main site:
UK mirrors:

Diana sites:
Royal Family: