In terms of well-known celebrities, few are bigger than Michael Jackson. Love him or hate him, pretty much everyone on the planet knows him. And that caused big problems for a lot of huge websites today with the news of his passing.
It was probably to be expected that Twitter would struggle as reportedly hundreds of thousands of tweets came in about Jackson in a very short amount of time. While I only got a couple actual Fail Whales, the site was really sucking wind for much of the hour that people were trying to get information about him. But Twitter was hardly the only site that was struggling.
Various reports had the AOL-owned TMZ, which broke the story, being down at multiple points throughout the ordeal. As a result, Perez Hilton’s hugely popular blog may have failed as people rushed there to try and confirm the news. Then it was the LATimes which had a report saying Jackson was only in a coma rather than dead, so people rushed there, and that site went down. (The LATimes eventually confirmed his passing.)
Meanwhile, CNN wasn’t down, but failed for another reason. CNN first said that Jackson was revived (see screenshot at the bottom) before going to the hospital.
Update: And just in case you didn’t believe this story is dominating the web right now, 9 of the 10 trending topics on Twitter are MJ-related. The lone exception is Ed McMahon, who also passed away two days ago. Meanwhile, Twitter search seems to be running about 20 minutes behind.
Update 2: And here’s a tweet in kind of poor taste from Google Maps API team: “Sad about MJ & FF? Cheer up by watching some Geo I/O talks.” Way to promote yourself at the expense of someone’s death, Google. Classy.
Update 3: And Google has apologized.
Update 4: And now Twitter has had to remove features like Search on its main site to stay afloat.
Update 5: Here’s a statement from AOL regarding TMZ during the news:
our internal records show that the site didn’t experience any interruption due to traffic. It’s possible that some people may have had trouble accessing the site due to local network issues, but TMZ was not down.