Election-oriented sites across the Web recorded record numbers of users logging on on Tuesday for election returns, updates on local and federal elections and other online features.
AllPolitics, a joint site from Time Warner and CNN, recorded more than 50 million hits to its servers on Tuesday. MSNBC's site served at least 2 million pages, said General Manager James Kinsella.
The heavy and sustained rates and levels of traffic surprised even the most savvy Web experts. Despite having the foresight in many cases to add to server capacity to handle the extra traffic, many sites became bogged down, either denying users access or slowing it.
"We are extremely pleased," said Cornelia Grumman, election coordinator for the Chicago Tribune's Web site. "This has been the Super Bowl of the Internet so far. We learned a lot from users, and users really appreciated having all of the information there - sometimes information that couldn't be found anywhere else."
Representatives from Web sites point to the activity as a sign that the Internet has finally arrived as a new medium.
"This is a watershed. It changes everything," said Mr. Kinsella. "The election did for the Web what the Nixon-Kennedy debate did for TV. It proves that the Web is a legitimate part of the public discourse."
Mike Riley, executive producer of the AllPolitics Web site, characterized activity as "intense and continuous," despite adding servers throughout the day.
Peak traffic times occurred between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. (ET), a time when usage is relatively low when compared to afternoon levels when employees log on at work.
"This has been a wonderful endorsement of the Web in the political process," Mr. Riley said. "This is the birth of the Internet--a glimpse to the future. It has opened a door and we plan to walk right through. People want this."
Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.