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The Royals’ Tech Fascination — Then and Now (Like, Just Now)

by Adriana Lee | April 29, 2011

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By now, of course you know about the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (whether you wanted to or not). You’d have to be living under a rock not to. But it may surprise some to know that many in the tech universe covered this in one way or another, and for a few good reasons.

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Will is apparently a pretty social-savvy prince. In fact, he was the one who prompted the British Monarchy to start a Facebook page. And not only did he and his then-fiancee announce their engagement by Tweeting it, they were the ones who decided to stream the wedding live online via YouTube. They wanted to grant access to the wedding (at least virtually), so that anyone who wanted to experience the event didn’t have to be shut out of the experience.

This was a historical first among several firsts from a royal line that has a track record of embracing new technology. Back in 1932, King George VI gave the very first Royal Christmas radio address, a cutting-edge act considering that it was a new platform at the time. And his granddaughter, the reigning Queen of England and daughter of the king made famous again recently by the Oscar-award winning film The King’s Speech, insisted that her coronation be televised, which was unprecedented. (In recent years, Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth ii even visited Google headquarters, where she uploaded her very first video.)

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In the particular case of Will and Kate, however, there were a few matters more practical than historical getting some attention. The young couple’s wedding stream struck fear into the heart of some geeks out there, with headlines like “Will the Royal Wedding break the internet?” popping up online.

YouTube was estimated to see colossal traffic — more than 400 million simultaneous views — and people questioned whether it could handle what would equate to over 800 million megabits of data moving through it. And that was on one site alone. There were numerous places serving up live feeds of the nuptials. Then there was Twitter — the site renowned for posting the “fail whale” after being crushed by the sheer volume of sentiments after Michael Jackson’s death. So pundits wondered, if people en masse tuned in across the webs, Tweeting their thoughts and impressions, would it bring the internet to its knees? As happy as the day made fans, it was also more than a little disconcerting for others.

At this point, some early numbers are already in, so with all the vows behind us now, let’s take stock of the event.

More than 2 billion people tuned in today across the internet and televised broadcasts. Though no decisive YouTube numbers were released yet, one thing is clear: The site managed to handle the official stream like a champion, with no notable crashes. And Twitter, despite getting an average of 67 Tweets per second, didn’t post the fail whale all day. In fact, the only noteworthy bumps were short, temporary outages on BBC online.

According to Akamai Technologies, a firm that is responsible for one-fifth of the world’s internet traffic, the Royal Wedding broke the company’s prior record of 1.6 million concurrent video streams. (That honor belonged to the 2010 World Cup, though its overlap with Wimbledon actually still reigns supreme.) The ceremony peaked at almost 5.4 million global pageviews per minute, ranking it as the sixth most popular web event ever. It even saw more traffic than President Obama’s inauguration.

(Kind of makes you wonder what would’ve happened if the ceremony didn’t air in the U.S. in the wee hours of the morning. Had it been in the afternoon or evening, I’m sure these numbers would look even more epic.)

When all is said and done, the webs rose to this enormous challenge admirably. And to Prince William and his lovely wife, aka the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, I can only say: May your union last forever, your royal highnesses… perhaps mostly because I’m begging you, please don’t ever do this to us again.


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Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...


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