As the United States carried out antiterrorist missile strikes against targets in Afghanistan and Sudan today, the servers of Internet news outlets endured a punishing attack of their own from news-hungry Netizens.
In response to the ever-increasing demands of online news readers, sites are beefing up server capacity. MSNBC, for example, added three servers since Monday, when President Clinton testified before a federal grand jury and later addressed the nation regarding his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
"It was crazy today," said Loren Pomerantz, representative for MSNBC online. "When I left, we were on track to pass the record we set on Monday, which was 1.1 million unique users."
Monday's news traffic already had broken records at online organizations including CNN, MSNBC, and ABCNews.com. (ABCNews.com carries stories from CNET News.com under a partnership between the two companies.)
Between the president's testimony and the missile attacks, the week has been unusually news-heavy. But part of the record activity on the sites is due to the Internet's ascendance as a news medium.
"Every time there is a breaking news story, more people turn to the Internet to find out about it," Pomerantz said. "The people who didn't go to the Net find out that others did, and then they go. Out of that whole group, a certain percentage stays, and pretty soon the whole thing just snowballs."
MSNBC was not the only site to break records. CNN leapt over its previous high-water mark of 15.5 million page views to reach 20.4 million page views. The prior record coincided with extreme weather conditions in parts of the country, as well as the Augusta Masters golf tournament, according to CNN Interactive representative Kerrin Roberts.
"We reached maximum capacity today," Roberts said.
ABCNews.com reported heavier demands on its servers than on Monday, but made no estimates on traffic for today.
News sites responded by gathering server resources from wherever possible and by slimming down pages. "We stripped down the pages so there was only one image and the main headline being updated," added Roberts. CNN also farmed out some of its video streaming distribution to its partner, InterVU.
MSNBC reduced graphics and removed its welcome page as well.
CNN.com and ABCNews.com acknowledged that users may have experienced delays accessing the site, but both said the sites were never down.
The week's news has broken more than just general traffic records. MSNBC saw 20,000 people go through its chat rooms, the highest participation without a celebrity guest.
"We've broken all records this week," Pomerantz noted.