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Web glitch hits Al Gore's cable channel

A highly interactive Web site, touted as central to Gore's new Current TV, is mired in traffic on the day of the channel's debut.

Alorie Gilbert Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Alorie Gilbert
writes about software, spy chips and the high-tech workplace.
Alorie Gilbert
2 min read
Al Gore's new cable channel got off to a rocky start on Monday--at least online.

The Current TV site, where viewers are encouraged to vote on programs and submit video segments, appeared to be inundated with traffic the day of the Gore-backed cable channel's debut, according to site performance tracker Keynote Systems.

In a test of the site's performance early Monday, Keynote experienced "significant" delays in loading the site's home page, said a senior Internet analyst at the company, Roopak Patel. Testing the site from five major U.S. cities, it took Keynote as long as to 22 seconds to load the home page, he said. In some cases, Keynote was unable to download the home page at all, he said. Five seconds or less is the acceptable range for a home page, Patel said.

Current TV Chairman Al Gore
Credit: Current TV
Al Gore, Chairman
Current TV

The performance problems are likely a result of a crush of legitimate traffic rather than a denial-of-service-attack or other problem, Patel said. It is also unlikely that it has anything to do with the design of the site, which incorporates a lot of Flash animation, he added.

"It's probably because of a high number of requests to (visit) the site," he said.

A Current representative was unaware of any problems with the site, but said a Web traffic jam is possible. "It might be inundated with hits right now," the representative said.

Current Chairman Gore is trying to break new ground with the channel by melding the interactivity of the Web with TV broadcasting. For instance, the cable and satellite channel plans to tap viewers for a significant portion of its programming. Viewers can submit short programs online. They can also view other's video submissions on the Current Web site and influence which ones air via an online voting system.

Programming on the 24-hour network consists of short-form content called "pods," which are segments lasting 15 seconds to five minutes on topics such as entertainment, parenting, careers and global events. It's a format Gore hopes will appeal to people aged 18 to 34, a coveted demographic among advertisers.

The site's performance problem leaves some egg on the face of Gore, who has claimed a deep involvement in the advent of the Internet. The former U.S. vice president is a member of the board of Apple Computer and a consultant to senior executives of Google. On the other hand, the traffic jam may indicate a stronger response to the channel's debut than Gore and company expected.

Several big names in technology, including Google, have tie-ins to Current. The channel plans to report the most popular searches on Google twice every hour. Rob Glaser, chief executive of RealNetworks, is a financial backer.

Current is available in almost 19 million U.S. homes--12 million from satellite company DirecTV and about 5 million on Time Warner's digital-cable service. The channel inherited the distribution agreements of the former News World International channel, which Current acquired from Vivendi Universal Entertainment last year.