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Starr report causes Internet slowdown, but no meltdown


Record traffic reported; government sites swamped

In this story:

September 11, 1998
Web posted at: 11:10 p.m. EDT (0310 GMT)

(CNN) -- When House leaders decided to disseminate Independent Counsel Ken Starr's report on President Clinton to the public as quickly as possible Friday, they turned to the Internet. And that made for a historically busy day in cyberspace.

But while there was gridlock in some corners, the Internet did not melt down under the demand, as some had predicted.

Government sites that carried the report, which are usually lightly visited, were swamped.

An hour after the report was released, the House of Representatives, Senate and White House Web sites were hopelessly snarled, as were the four other government sites offering the report.

"An analogy for what this would be like is to have a local grocery store that supports 10 cars in its parking lot. And then, all of a sudden, you are asking it in two days to build a parking lot big enough to support a free day at Disney World," said Ken Allard of Jupiter Communications.

"I think it's unprecedented that a large file such as this is going to be distributed en masse," said Jonathan Heiliger, chief executive officer of Frontier GlobalCenter, which runs the Yahoo search engine. "This is something that people haven't dealt with before."

Likely the Internet's busiest day ever

Internet audience measurement is still an evolving science, so it is difficult to determine exactly how many people might have read Starr's report online Friday. But some observers were calling it the Internet's busiest day ever.

Some Internet sites were inaccessible because of huge traffic volumes  

Because of the volume, slowdowns were felt across the entire system. According to the Internet Traffic Report, a Web site that monitors the Net's speed, North America and Europe were most affected, especially areas around New York City and Washington, D.C.

Gene Shklar, a spokesman for Keynote Systems Inc., which tracks Internet performance, said the trouble was in getting into the sites with the reports. Once someone got in, they usually could quickly view the document.

Commercial and news sites that carried the report experienced record traffic.

At CNN's Web site, CNN Interactive, the number of hits peaked at an estimated 340,000 per minute, eclipsing all previous traffic volumes. To ease the crush, stripped out pictures and graphics to present a text-only version.

America Online saw its traffic surge 30 percent; on The Associated Press Web site, it was 20 times the normal load.

AOL requires parental controls for viewing

Given the salacious nature of some details in Starr's case against Clinton, America Online, for the first time ever, added the government sites to its list of areas blocked under parental controls.

The version of Starr's report that was posted on the Internet looked similar to the one delivered on paper to members of Congress. But the Internet version had some advantages.

For example, viewers could use their Web browsers to search for a particular word -- "dress," for instance, which took people to the section of the report dealing with Monica Lewinsky's now infamous, stained navy cocktail dress.

Ironically, there was no logjam Friday at the site operated by Internet gossip columnist Matt Drudge, who sparked the whole Lewinsky controversy by posting allegations about it in January.

A message told visitors Friday, "Due to Web overload, Drudge is not updating at this time."

Correspondents John Holliman, Bruce Francis and Marsha Walton, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.

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