Bin Laden death big on Twitter--but not biggest

Twitter says about 4,000 tweets per second carried news of Osama bin Laden's death Sunday night. That's a lot, but New Year's Eve in Japan sparked more.

Twitter search showed some of the most popular tweets about Osama bin Laden's death, as measured by how many thousands of times they'd been retweeted.
Twitter search showed some of the most popular tweets about Osama bin Laden's death, as measured by how many thousands of times they'd been retweeted. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

News of Osama bin Laden's death was big on Twitter--but not the biggest so far in terms of tweets per second.

"Twitter traffic spiked to more than 4,000 tweets per second at the beginning and end of President Obama's speech tonight announcing the death of Osama Bin Laden," said company spokesman Matt Graves. Twitter also spread the word of bin Laden's death faster than the official announcement and supplied an inadvertent live account of the attack on bin Laden by U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on Sunday.

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For comparison, that was more than the peak rate of 3,085 tweets per second of the 2010 NBA finals, the 3,283 tweets per second of Japan's World Cup soccer victory over Denmark. It's in the same range as 4,064 tweets per second for the 2011 Superbowl.

But it's well short of the 6,939 tweets per second ushering in the new year in Japan. That moment, of course, was very precisely timed, which probably led to a more concentrated burst of tweeting.

Peak tweet rates don't just depend on the magnitude of a news event. They also depend on when the event happens, and in the case of bin Laden's death, it was late on a Sunday night on the East Coast.

The timing likely was convenient for some on the Net. Unplanned surges in interest can swamp Web sites, especially those delivering data-intensive video. When news arrives during off-peak hours, though, it can give sites time to prepare with better traffic capacity and smooth out demand for the information.

There were some problems keeping up, said Keynote Systems, which monitors Internet and mobile data performance.

"Keynote Systems observed that the leading connected and mobile news sites began to experience performance slowdowns and streaming sites too groaned under the traffic load," spokesman Dan Berkowitz said.

Subjects relating to Osama bin Laden topped Google's list of hot searches in the United States.
Subjects relating to Osama bin Laden topped Google's list of hot searches in the United States. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET
 

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