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Internet

Election puts strain on Web sites

News and election-related Web sites are swamped as visitors log on to learn the latest on the teetering presidential election.

    News and election-related Web sites were still swamped Friday as visitors searched for the latest on the still-undecided presidential election.

    "This really speaks to how important the Internet has become as a source of information around the country and around the world," said Daniel Todd, director of public services at San Mateo, Calif.-based Keynote Systems.

    The increased traffic follows a disappointing year for election-related Web sites. Some observers predicted that the Web would supplant television as the preferred medium for getting news and information about the candidates; instead candidate and election Web sites remained a sideshow for much of the campaign.

    But traffic to such sites started to pick up Tuesday, as voters turned to the Web for the latest election results. The jump in traffic led to outages at sites such as MSNBC.com and Voter.com.

    Web sites for Want election news? Get it herethe Drudge Report and the Florida Division of Elections became all but inaccessible because of the strain in recent days.

    Despite the problems, Net users have continued to visit election-related sites in heavy numbers.

    CNN.com has stayed above 2 million unique visitors per day since Tuesday, according to Jupiter Media Metrix. On Wednesday, as the site gave continuously updated numbers from Florida's vote count, traffic reached 4 million unique visitors.

    Last week, CNN.com averaged less than 1 million visitors per day. MSNBC.com, ABCNews.com and CBSNews.com saw similar spikes in traffic, Jupiter Media Metrix reported.

    "This is a reflection of what's going on in society," said Steve Coffey, executive vice president of Jupiter Media Metrix. "You've got the whole nation sitting on pins and needles waiting for these results, and many millions are using the Web to do that.

    "As soon as the election gets called, I expect these numbers to return to normal."

    As the election focused on the vote count in Florida, the Florida Division of Elections Web site came under heavy strain. The Division of Elections site showed only a 22.8 percent response rate from noon until midnight on Thursday, Keynote Systems said.

    That means only about one in five visitors to the site was able to connect to it. For those who were able to get into the site, the home page took an inordinately long 35 seconds to load.

    In contrast, ABCNews.com showed a 99 percent response rate Thursday, Keynote said, and took just 2.66 seconds to load.

    "There was no way to predict that Florida could have been the swing state," Todd said. "Yesterday they knew, but obviously it was too late to fix" the election site.