People around the globe rushed to the Internet today in search of gritty details in Kenneth Starr's 445-page report about the White House sex scandal.
Net users and online news sites initially encountered jammed servers as they sought to read and link to the independent counsel's report, which accuses President Clinton of lying about his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and encouraging others to do the same under oath. As the day wore on, however, the networking backbones of the Internet held up despite crushing traffic. (See related story)
The House voted 363-63 this morning to post the report at "http://icreport.house.gov/." Many news organizations have included copies on their sites as well. (CNET News.com has posted the full text of at this page.)
The release of the report online was a milestone for the Internet as a real-time information vehicle. It was the only mass medium that allowed the entire reading public--of the world, not just the country--the ability to review the voluminous document in detail, without filters, instantly.
The public was also able to witness a national policy debate as it developed. Soon after the report was released, the White House posted a preliminary memorandum on its Web site responding the Starr report and planned to update the rebuttal after further review.
A House spokesman said yesterday that the government sites have enough server capacity to withstand the massive traffic expected from the report. But the House site was sluggish even before the report was released and was practically inaccessible throughout much of the day.
Mainstream news outlets were particularly skeptical of the government's expressed confidence in its ability to handle traffic, especially given their own experience with online congestion after the president made a nationally televised speech following his August 17 deposition.
"Today and all day we have two times the users we had on our record-breaking day, August 17," an MSNBC spokeswoman said. "On that day, we had 1.1 million unique users; today we're running double that."
CNN, which has posted the report, also said its site had already broken its traffic record. "We just passed our last record. We're at about 323,000 hits per minute," CNN spokesman Kerrin Roberts said. "Our previous high had been 320,000 hits per minute."
ABCNews.com (a CNET News.com partner), the New York Times, Netscape Communications' Netcenter, and Yahoo all featured the report. Broadcast.com lets users hear parts of the report read out loud via RealAudio.
"Preliminarily it looks like we are exceeding our traffic from August 17, when Clinton testified [before the grand jury]," noted Michelle Bergman of ABCNews.com. "That day we got 7 million page impressions, and 1 million unique."
Some companies, such as Keynote Systems, are monitoring the traffic of sites carrying the report.
"On the Thomas [congressional] site yesterday, it took users an average of 10 seconds to access the site, and 98 percent of connections were successful," said Mary Lindsay of Keynote. "This morning, the average increased to 55 seconds to access the site, and only 13 percent of attempted connections were successful."